Victory over Eudora clinches to seed for Bulldogs
Only four days after blowing a late seven-point lead at Gardner, the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team bounced back to defeat rival Eudora in a closely-contested game.
The Bulldogs (13-6) beat the Cardinals 59-50 at home Tuesday night, which was also senior night for five Bulldogs.
"It was great, because this is one of the last times we will be playing in here," senior Jeremy Wright said. "It's pretty exciting, especially to get it against our rival."
The other four seniors are John Brown, Aaron Hannon, James Hightree and Ryan Jorgensen.
Coach Heath Cooper was glad the seniors could win their last regular season game at home.
"It's great to win on senior night," Cooper said. "Those seniors have been through a lot. Unfortunately, three of their four years, they have had losing records. One of my major goals was to let the seniors have fun. Tonight all five of those guys had smiles and it was rewarding for me to see that."
The win Tuesday also clinched the No. 1 seed in Class 4A sub-state for the Bulldogs, who will be hosting the tournament next week.
"It's very nice," Cooper said of the No. 1 seed. "We always talk about baby steps with this program. It's not going to happen over night. We are taking baby steps."
Baldwin will play Iola at 7 p.m. Tuesday at home in the first round of sub-state. The semifinal and finals will be Friday and Saturday night in the Baldwin Junior High School gym.
"What a great opportunity for us," Cooper said. "We are the No. 1 seed at home. We have a great shot. I can't wait."
Before the Bulldogs could look forward to sub-state, they had to take care of business against the rival Cardinals.
Both teams came out shooting well, as Eudora drained four three-pointers in the first quarter. Baldwin hung close and only trailed 16-15. The Bulldogs continued its good shooting as it led 29-23 at halftime.
"I thought we played fine," Cooper said. "We did what we wanted to do and that was get up and down a little bit. I think they hit six of seven three-pointers in the first half. That was my only complaint."
Eudora closed the lead before BHS sophomore Drew Berg sank a three-pointer as time expired in the third quarter, giving Baldwin a 41-35 lead.
Baldwin held its lead in the final quarter as it knocked down eight of nine free throws.
"They were huge," Wright said of the free throws. "We've been working on that a lot in practice, knowing that all of the games we have from now on are going to be close. It's all going to come down to free throws."
Cooper said the free throws have nothing to do with coaching, but rather the players stepping up when needed.
"It had nothing to do with coaching, it was those guys making plays down the stretch," Cooper said. "Tonight, we took it right to them and that's a very good team we beat."
The tempo of the game was a deciding factor, according to Cooper.
"We knew they are very well coached and are very good in half-court offense and half-court defense," Cooper said. "We wanted to get the game going really fast. We thought that if we did that, we would take away two of their strengths. We really wanted to get up and down the court."
He was also very proud of how junior Sam Scott played Tuesday, especially on defense.
"Sam Scott was fantastic tonight," Cooper said. "He did a great job defensively on Spillman. He had 15 rebounds, which is really good."
Hannon led the team with 19 points, while Jorgensen added 10. The Bulldogs were 17 of 23 from the free throw line.
The Eudora victory came only four days after a tough loss at Gardner Friday where the Bulldogs led by seven with 3:30 left in the game. Baldwin lost the game 56-51.
"We have to learn from this one," Cooper said Friday night. "We have been talking all year about these games that prepare us for sub-state. This is one, I think; we absolutely have to learn from. We have to learn to just bury people when they are down. When it mattered, we choked."
Baldwin led 49-42 with 3:30 left in the game, when Gardner went on a 7-0 run in 1:20, thanks to some BHS turnovers. Gardner went on a 14-2 run to close out the game.
"We have really good guards and so do they (Gardner)," Cooper said. "Our guards just couldn't handle the pressure tonight. We play a pressure style of basketball and for us not to be able to handle it, is surprising. We weren't very composed in the fourth quarter."
Cooper said he wanted his team to run some clock and protect its lead when it was up seven points. Unfortunately, Baldwin turned the ball over three straight times, which Gardner converted into points.
"We were trying to run clock, since we were up seven," Cooper said. "We didn't run our delay game offense very well. It was just little things."
Cooper also said he hopes the Bulldogs learn how to protect their lead late in the game.
"I hope that we learn when we are up late in the game, like a sub-state final, to be composed and take care of the ball," Cooper said.
The Bulldogs will have another tough game against one more rival Friday. They travel to Wellsville to play at 8 p.m. in their final regular season game.
"It will be a great game Friday," Cooper said. "The good thing about games like this is I don't have to give some big speech. I don't have to get them fired up, because they will be ready to play. It's going to be a great atmosphere and it's a rivalry. It should be a great game."
Wright said he hopes the team will be able to continuing playing at home during sub-state, but knows they must first focus on Wellsville.
"Hopefully, we will continue to get wins on this floor, but we need to get a win in Wellsville," Wright said. "We want a winning streak heading into sub-state."
The Signal will have updates on the sub-state basketball tournaments as information becomes available on its Web site at www.baldwincity.com.