BHS boys split high-scoring league contests
Both games were up tempo, high scoring and decided by fewer than four points, as the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team split its Frontier League games against Spring Hill and Louisburg.
"At this time of the year, all of the games are like this," BHS coach Heath Cooper said. "Teams have gotten to a point where they have all of their kinks out. We are getting ready for the playoffs. Teams are pretty equal right now, for the most part."
The Bulldogs beat Louisburg 80-76 in overtime at home Tuesday by knocking down 16 of 22 free throws in the final two periods.
"It feels good to win tonight," junior Andrew Madl said. "We needed this one and we gutted it out. It was a very physical game, but when it came down to it, we made our free throws and won."
For the game, Baldwin sank 27 of 36 free throws, which was satisfying to Cooper.
"Free throws were huge," Cooper said. "We have gotten to the point where now we shoot free throws for 20 percent of our practice. It's really refreshing to see it pay off tonight."
BHS senior Aaron Hannon sank two free throws with 3.7 seconds left in the game to give Baldwin a 67-64 lead. Then Louisburg senior guard Jacob White drained a three-pointer as time ran out, sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, Louisburg took a 70-69 lead with a three-pointer. Then BHS junior Sam Scott converted a three-point play, giving Baldwin a 72-70 lead, which it never gave up.
BHS players sank eight of 12 free throws in the final 1:10 of overtime.
"I am really happy tonight," Cooper said. "Our seniors stepped up really big tonight. I was really happy with those guys."
Baldwin started the game a little sluggish, as it only scored four points in the first 3:40 of the game. Then the Bulldogs finished the quarter on a 17-3 run to lead 21-11 after the first quarter.
Madl said the team had trouble on defense early on, but stepped it up.
"We missed a lot of shots we need to finish," Madl said. "We were a little sluggish on defense, but we picked it up."
Louisburg began to crawl back in the second quarter as it kept closing the deficit. The Wildcats tied the game at 35-35 right before halftime.
"It was very important, but I am very disturbed that we gave it up," Cooper said of the Bulldogs' early lead. "We were up 13 at one point and we were struggling to shoot, but we keep winning."
Cooper was also not happy with his team's defense in the second quarter.
"Our half-court defense was not very good at all," Cooper said. "I think we gave up 24 points in the second quarter. Letting guys dribble into the paint was the biggest thing and we don't want guys doing that."
Baldwin maintained a lead in the second half before Louisburg forced overtime.
Hannon led Baldwin in scoring with 22 points, while senior Ryan Jorgensen chipped in 18.
The other league game Baldwin played last week was at Spring Hill Friday. Despite an early lead, the Bulldogs were beaten 78-75.
"It was tough, since we were ahead most of the game," senior Jeremy Wright said. "It was a heartbreaker. Those are the tough ones to lose."
Cooper also said the loss was hard, because the team played so hard only to come up just short.
"It's tough, but I know our guys gave everything they had," Cooper said. "As a coach, that's all you can ever ask. They genuinely left everything on the court. They played their tails off."
Baldwin came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. The Bulldogs racked up 33 first quarter points, while holding Spring Hill to 20.
"That's the best quarter of basketball we have played all year, scoring 33 points," Cooper said. "They did everything we asked as coaches."
Wright said the early lead was great, but he had hoped the team could have held that lead.
"That was the first time all year, we have come out strong like that," Wright said. "We had a good start on them, but I wish we could have finished the game."
The Bulldogs never let their lead slip below five points in the second quarter and took a 50-45 lead in halftime.
"We gave up a little bit of the lead, but how can you not be happy if you score 50 first half points," Cooper said. "Defensively, we needed to make some adjustments, but I was not disappointed in our guys at all."
Spring Hill began the second half with a 6-0 run which led the Broncos to take a 72-66 lead after the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, with the score tied 75-75, Spring Hill held the ball and stalled for 3:30 while Baldwin sat in a zone defense. Then the Broncos called a timeout with 1:40 left in the game.
"It was kind of like a chess match," Cooper said. "It's kind of fun. I like it. To me, nobody really won the chess match. It didn't have any effect on the game really."
Spring Hill made a basket and one free throw in the final minute to hang on for the win.
Cooper said he was happy with his team's effort, despite the result.
"I know the scoreboard means a lot, but if you can get your guys to play hard, there is still a victory you can take from that," Cooper said. "The guys are down and they should be. That means they care. It's good to see that they care."
Wright said the Bulldogs were able to break the Broncos' pressure most of the game.
"We seemed to be beating their press fairly well and finishing our shots," Wright said. "It was all a matter of running out of time."
The Bulldogs finish the regular season with two of the top league teams and rival Wellsville. Cooper knows how important those games will be, especially after Tuesday's win.
"Louisburg is one of those teams," Cooper said of good league teams. "They are a really young team. They have gotten better over the year and they are playing well. Then we've got Gardner, Eudora and Wellsville. Those are all elite teams in this league. I like it because it prepares us for sub-state."
The Bulldogs next play at 8 p.m. Friday at Gardner. The Trailblazers are 11-6, 6-3 on the season.
"They are good and I think it's a great match up," Cooper said. "The reason is both teams have really good guards. It should be really interesting in terms of that."