BHS boys bounce back to take third
PAOLA -- A victory over a tournament host and league opponent pleased first-year coach Eric Toot here Friday night.
The Baldwin High School boys' basketball team placed third in the Panther Invitational with its 57-49 win over tournament-host Paola.
"Anytime you can come in here and beat Paola, you have to be excited about that," Toot said. "They are well coached and a tough team. It's a good win for us."
Senior Blake Wieden was excited to get a road win against a league opponent Friday.
"We would have liked to have been playing for the first-place game, but we will take third," Wieden said. "It felt good coming into their home place this early in the season and get a win. It gives us a good feeling."
Friday's win was especially pleasing to Toot, because he wasn't sure how his team would come back after its 56-53 loss to Belton (Mo.) on Dec. 5.
"I thought we played really well Tuesday, so I was not sure if we could do it in back-to-back games," Toot said. "I thought we were better tonight than we were Tuesday, which is really encouraging. That tells me that we are getting better every day and that's the overall goal for this team right now."
Senior Sam Scott was also happy to win after losing the previous game.
"It felt good to get the win," Scott said. "It wasn't like we played bad on Tuesday, but we keep getting better with each game, which is what we like to see."
Toot said his team gave great effort Friday, which helped in the win. He was also happy with the BHS defense.
"I thought our defense was very good," Toot said. "We are way ahead of where I thought we would be, to tell you the truth. As a coach, I wasn't sure how quickly we could pick up the new system defensively. Number one, our kids are playing hard, and when you play hard it makes everything look good."
Scott said Baldwin wants to be a good defensive team this year.
"Playing hard and playing tough defense is kind of our deal this year," Scott said. "That's what we want to do. We want to be the team that will shut you down and play hard."
Baldwin opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run to take a 52-36 lead with 4:05 left in the game. Then the Panthers rallied, scoring 11 of the next 14 points.
Paola's late effort ran out of time as Wieden knocked down three of four free throws to end the rally.
"I think we played well," Wieden said. "We played really hard and I think that's what won it. We are still not executing the way we really want to, but we're getting really close."
At halftime, Baldwin led 30-23, despite only scoring one field goal in the final 3:20 of the quarter. In the third quarter, the Bulldogs expanded their lead to 10 points with points in the paint from Scott and junior Drew Berg.
"I thought our ball movement and how they were moving on offense without the ball led to some easy buckets for us that you need against a good defensive team like Paola," Toot said.
Wieden said the players are still adjusting to Toot's offensive schemes, but so far it's working great.
"We are still trying to learn the new system, but it's coming around," Wieden said. "We are starting to figure it out. When we run it, we get points. I think it's going to work really well once we figure it out."
Baldwin shot 55 percent from the field Friday and sank 18 of 25 free throws in the victory.
"I think we've made a lot of improvements and we're better than we were hoping to be at this point in the year," Scott said. "But we still have a lot of work to do on the offensive end."
Wieden led the Bulldogs with 21 points. He credited his teammates for his success on the offensive end.
"Early on, guys were setting really good screens and I was getting open off of them," Wieden said. "When we ran the court, it opened up some layups and we were able to get to the line."
After picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter, Scott came back to score 15 points and grab 13 rebounds."
"It was nice to not get that third foul in the first half," Scott said. "I had to play smarter and I still got some boards, which was nice."
Junior Drew Berg added 11 points. Senior Andrew Madl also contributed six points in the victory. Toot was proud of his seniors and bench players Friday night.
"I thought all three seniors played a great game tonight, defensively and offensively," Toot said. "Along with the other kids that played, I thought Caj (Kueffer), Jesse (Green) and Zach (Durr) gave us some huge minutes off the bench."
Since Friday, Baldwin has been practicing all week for its contest at Central Heights, which will begin at 8 p.m. Friday. The junior varsity team will play at 5 p.m. with the freshmen beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Toot said the Bulldogs have been playing well, but they still have several things to learn before its Jan. 2 rematch with Paola at home.
"We've got a few more things to put in," Toot said. "We've worked on our press break maybe two or three times in practice and it showed tonight. We don't have in all of our sideline plays and we don't have any set plays in.
"We need to try and get all of that in before Christmas, so we can come back after the break and improve on what we have," Toot said. "Right now, we are just learning what we have, but hopefully after Christmas we can continue to improve and make it even better than what it is right now."