Captains’ call for press lifts Bulldogs to victory
CENTRAL HEIGHTS -- In a rare occasion, 33 points can be enough to win a high school varsity boys' basketball game.
Friday night was one of those rare occasions.
"I told the kids before the game that I thought their coach would want to keep the game in the 40s," Baldwin High School coach Eric Toot said. "I really believed that he wanted to slow down the pace, which was true. After the first half, I knew that if we got into the mid-30s, we would probably win the game."
It was a slow-paced game for much of the contest, but the BHS boys' basketball team (3-1) collected its first Frontier League victory of the season as it beat Central Heights 33-25 here.
"It actually went the way I thought it might," Toot said. "After scouting them, I knew there was a chance that they would play that way against us. I thought we were prepared for it and I thought the kids handled it very well in a tough situation playing that type of basketball."
Junior Drew Berg said the Bulldogs were pleased to come away from Central Heights with a victory.
"We were really happy to win," Berg said. "It was a different style of basketball. It showed that we could battle through anything and come away with the win."
Points by either team were hard to come by in the first half, especially the opening quarter. Neither team scored in the final 2:25 of the period, as they ended the first quarter deadlocked at 6-6.
Central Heights began the second quarter with a 5-0 run. BHS senior Sam Scott scored all of the Bulldogs' points in the second quarter, with two baskets and two free throws. Despite the effort from Scott, the Vikings led at halftime 15-12.
The third quarter would change the landscape of the game, as Baldwin turned up the defensive pressure and began to score points.
"That was due to our captains," Berg said. "At halftime, they asked coach Toot if we could play a full-court press and he said 'sure.' It really paid off for us."
Right out of halftime, the Bulldogs hurt the Vikings with full-court defensive pressure. The BHS defense forced turnovers and several baskets, while shutting down the Central Heights offense.
Baldwin outscored the Vikings 17-4 in the third quarter. Berg knocked down two three-pointers and junior Zach Durr converted a three-point play to help the Bulldogs pull away.
Toot credits the third quarter defense to his team captains.
"We haven't worked on our press all year," Toot said. "I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to it, but our two captains, Blake (Wieden) and Sam (Scott), actually were the ones who pushed for it and wanted to try it. So we did and it worked. I give credit to them for not only being players, but thinking of ways to help them win."
All of the offensive highlights came to an abrupt halt when the fourth quarter began. Baldwin only managed two field goals in the period, while Central Heights made two three-pointers.
Neither team scored a point in the final 2:48 of the game as Baldwin went on to win its third game of the season.
"It was really different," Berg said of the game. "We really learned a lot on defense on how to play as a team. We kept focused and never gave up."
Toot was very proud of how his players played defensively, especially considering the length of time they were without the ball.
"Especially on the defensive end, I thought they just showed tremendous patience," Toot said. "It's not easy to continue playing defense for 10 or 15 passes or a minute at a time. I thought their focus was just outstanding as far as playing defense for such a long period of time.
"I can't even imagine what the time of possession was," Toot said. "That's not something you talk about in basketball, it's usually in football. They had the ball most of the game."
The Bulldogs also adjusted to the Vikings' zone defense.
"That's really the first zone we've seen for an extended period of time," Toot said. "I thought the kids were very unselfish against the zone. We actually made a lot of passes and worked the ball inside. I thought we took some good shots. We just didn't make any in the first half."
Baldwin made 13 of 37 field goals to shoot 35 percent for the game. Despite the low field goal percentage, the Bulldogs did sink all five free throw attempts Friday.
Scott made five of eight shots and all four of his free throws to lead Baldwin with 14 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds to record his third straight double-double. Berg contributed 12 points in the victory.
"Sam just played outstanding and he has all year," Toot said. "I think the difference in the game was on the offensive backboards. We had 12 offensive rebounds in a game where there weren't that many shots. Sam and Drew were on the boards all night."
Baldwin's leading scorer, senior Blake Wieden, was held way below his average of 16 points per game Friday, as he only scored two points on one of 11 shooting.
"Blake is getting a reputation as our scorer and rightfully so," Toot said. "He can definitely score and he still had some good looks, they just didn't go down Friday. That's going to happen to good players. He will bounce back."
Baldwin heads into the Christmas break with a 3-1 record. Toot is feeling confident about his team after the first four games as the coach.
"I am very happy with where we are at, not just based on wins and losses, but just how the team has progressed," Toot said. "I am looking forward to some of the younger kids hopefully getting an opportunity to contribute on the varsity level."
He also said the Bulldogs have several things to add during the break, but he hopes the players will keep learning his system.
"We've got to get in our set plays, because we don't have any," Toot said. "There is another zone offense that we need to have in. As well as I think we are playing defensively, I think there is a lot of stuff that I haven't talked about philosophy wise that will even make us better. So, hopefully, we can get those things in."
The Bulldogs don't play again until 2007, when they host Paola Jan 2. The varsity boys will play at 8 p.m., while the junior varsity and freshman teams play at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively.