Bulldogs drop close contest
PAOLA -- Eric Toot had his team off on the right foot in his inaugural game, but a three-point loss on Tuesday has him preparing for the third-place game at the Panther Invitational.
The Baldwin High School boys' basketball team defeated JC Harmon 70-51 Monday night, but fell 56-53 to Belton (Mo.) Tuesday. Now the Bulldogs (1-1) will play host Paola at 7 p.m. Friday night for third place in the tournament.
After Tuesday's loss, Toot said his team must continue to improve before its next game.
"We've just got to get better everyday," Toot said. "There's not one specific thing that we need to improve. We just have to understand and know what we want to do as a team better. Hopefully, we'll just get better everyday."
Baldwin's three-point loss on Tuesday was the first defeat for Toot in his first year as coach of the Bulldogs.
Both teams battled the entire game, but Baldwin struggled to get over the hump after halftime.
"Overall, it was a hard-fought game," Toot said. "It was close throughout, but we never really took the lead in the second half. It was a close game, though."
After Belton sank two free throws in the final seconds, the Bulldogs threw up a half-court shot to tie the game, but it missed.
"I thought we played better than we did the night before," Toot said. "We made improvements from the first game and I thought we played very solid."
Baldwin struggled rebounding the ball during the first half, but won the edge on the boards for the game, 31-27. The Bulldogs also only sank 10 of 18 free throws Tuesday.
"We struggled with rebounding in the first half," Toot said. "We also missed a few free throws down the stretch."
Senior Blake Wieden led the Bulldogs with 17 points, while fellow senior Sam Scott added 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Senior Andrew Madl also contributed 11 points and took three charges for BHS.
Wieden also helped lead Baldwin to its opening victory of the season, when it defeated former BHS coach Heath Cooper's Harmon team 70-51.
The Bulldogs fell behind 6-0 very quickly Monday, but rallied back to take a 16-10 lead midway through the first quarter. By halftime, Baldwin led 39-28.
"We're familiar with how coach Cooper likes to play, which is run and press," Toot said. "We ran really well, but once we slowed it down, we took control."
Harmon closed Baldwin's lead late in the third quarter as BHS led 48-38 heading into the final eight minutes of action. Then, the Bulldogs opened the game up.
In two minutes of play, Baldwin led 56-40, before cruising to victory.
"I thought we struggled to get into our offensive sets during the game," Toot said. We played unselfishly and gave great effort."
Wieden once again led Baldwin in scoring with 24 points. Junior Drew Berg added 11 points and 13 rebounds in the win.
The Bulldogs will finish the Panther tournament with the third-place game against host Paola at 7 p.m. Friday.