Bulldogs overcome sluggish start to beat Iola
After a sluggish start, the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team used a 17-2 run in the second quarter to gain the lead, which it never lost Tuesday night against Iola.
The Bulldogs (15-6) beat the Mustangs (4-17) 70-52 at home in the first round of sub-state tournament action.
"It feels good and the main word is advance," coach Heath Cooper said. "I like to compare this to the NCAA (basketball) tournament. We were the higher seed, but we did not play well in the first half," Cooper said. "I think we were a little tight. I think we got that out of our system now. You see that a lot in the tournament."
With the win, the Bulldogs move on to the semifinal round, where they will play Santa Fe Trail at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Baldwin Junior High School gym.
"It feels pretty good, since last year we went out in the first round," senior Aaron Hannon said of advancing in sub-state. "Now we've just got to come out hard Friday."
Baldwin defeated Santa Fe Trail 72-50 on Dec. 2.
On Tuesday, the Bulldogs fell behind early with turnovers and missed shots. Iola led 16-12 after the first quarter.
"We were kind of down at the beginning," Hannon said. "I guess we were rushing too much. We were all up tight and reckless."
Cooper said the team just came out too tight in the first quarter.
"I think we were tight tonight," Cooper said. "I think there is a lot of expectations on these guys and rightfully so; they have earned it. But we were tight early on."
The Mustangs increased their lead to 26-18 before the Bulldogs sparked their game-changing surge. Senior Jeremy Wright hit a three-pointer to start the streak, and then Hannon contributed four points. Junior Blake Wieden caught fire from long range, as he knocked in two three-pointers to give Baldwin a 35-28 halftime lead.
"I think we were maybe a bit nervous and I think we expected to win," Wieden said. "We played kind of timid. In the second quarter, we moved the ball around well, got some open shots and finally started connecting on them."
Cooper said Wieden is a great shooter, but has struggled recently, which may have been caused by eye problems.
"The thing with Blake is he has been having some eye problems, but he got that fixed," Cooper said. "He got some new contacts, so hopefully he will be seeing a little bit better. We think that might have been some of the problems, because he is a really good shooter."
The Bulldogs also changed defense from their full-court press to a half-court man during the second quarter. Cooper thinks that helped the team relax.
"I think it did, because it calmed us down," Cooper said. "We were getting beat on the press because we weren't making fundamental drops and things like that. Our heads weren't in the game early on."
Iola was never able to cut the lead below seven points in the second half, as Baldwin took the game over.
"We told the guys at halftime to relax and enjoy it," Cooper said. "I think in the second half, we came out more relaxed and started to do the things that we normally do."
Hannon led the team with 16 points, while Wright added 14 of his own. Senior Ryan Jorgensen and Wieden also scored in double figures, with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Wieden said the team improved on every aspect of the game during the second half Tuesday.
"We played a lot better defense in the second half and we started taking smarter shots," Wieden said. "We just played harder.
"It feels good, even though we didn't play really well," Wieden said. "We are moving on and that's the main thing. We will be ready Friday."
Cooper agreed the Bulldogs didn't play well, but all that counts now are wins.
"You just have to find a way and get it done," Cooper said. "Whether it's pretty or ugly, we will take it either way."
On Friday, the Bulldogs had their final regular season tune up before sub-state action. They traveled to Wellsville, where they won 65-52.
"It was good to get the win over the rival, especially on the road," Cooper said Friday night. "They (Wellsville) are a good team. We will take this win."
Baldwin jumped out a to quick 6-0 lead that expanded to 18-7 at the end of the first quarter. By halftime, Wellsville had closed the gap to only three, as it trailed 28-25.
Baldwin maintained its tight lead in the third quarter and only led 41-37 heading into the final period.
In the fourth quarter, Baldwin knocked down 18 of 22 free throws to clinch the victory.
"We have been stressing free throws so much," Cooper said. "We were 26 of 32 for the game. I can't expect much more than that. We made them when they counted."
Cooper said the coaches emphasized attacking the goal in the second half, instead of shooting jump shots.
"One thing we stressed in the third and fourth quarters was taking the ball to the glass," Cooper said. "We can't settle for 10 or 12-foot jumpers. We needed to attack the zone and we did a better job of that."
Junior Andrew Madl and Hannon each scored 16 points to lead Baldwin in scoring Friday night. Wright added 11.
The Bulldogs made 26 of 32 free throws, but only hit one of eight three-pointers.
Cooper said the team must improve its half-court defense if it wants to go far into the postseason.
"We have got to improve on man-to-man defense," Cooper said. "In sub-state, it's one game at a time and teams are playing at the highest level. We have got to improve defensively."
Hannon agreed with Cooper.
"We need to work on playing hard defense and competing from here on out," Hannon said.
The Bulldogs will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home. If they win that game, then they will play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night at home in the sub-state championship game.
Cooper said he is trying to focus on Friday's game, but he knows the possibility of having both the boys' and girls' teams playing Saturday is exciting to Baldwin fans.
"We are trying to take it one game at a time, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to the whole weekend," Cooper said. "I hope the girls are there with us. If both of us get there to the finals, it would be really exciting. I know we both have one more, but I can't help but think how fun Saturday night would be if we both got there."
Check the Signal's Web site, www.baldwincity.com, for updates on sub-state basketball action.
Frontier League Standings
Ottawa 11-1 17-3
Spring Hill 10-2 12-8
Baldwin 9-3 14-6
Gardner 9-3 14-6
DeSoto 8-4 11-9
Eudora 8-4 14-6
Louisburg 6-6 10-10
Paola 5-7 8-11
Anderson 4-8 7-13
Wellsville 4-8 12-8
Osawatomie 3-9 7-13
Central Hts. 1-11 6-14
Prairie View 0-12 4-16