BHS boys end season in semifinal round
Despite a much improved record and a top-tier Frontier League finish, the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team's season ended with a disappointment in sub-state Friday.
The Bulldogs (15-7) were beaten by Santa Fe Trail (11-11) in the sub-state semifinal 62-50 in Baldwin City. The Bulldogs were the No. 1 seed in the tournament, while SFT was the No. 4 seed.
"I think Santa Fe Trail played really well," Coach Heath Cooper said. "They really shut down our guards. We just got outplayed. I think we had bright-light syndrome. We came out really tight."
Senior Jeremy Wright said the loss hurt because the team had goals of going to state in Salina.
"It was tough because we had expectations of making it to state," Wright said. "It was kind of a let down, but we just have to move on.
"It didn't really hit me until the other day that it was our last game," he said. "It's sad."
Baldwin struggled to slow down SFT's 6-foot-9 senior Jake Carter, who scored a game-high 22 points.
"He has improved a lot," Cooper said. "He has developed an outside shot and I think he is in a lot better shape. He was definitely a difference in the game, just the fact that he is a presence inside. He altered many of our shots."
Wright said Carter was too much for the Bulldogs' defense to guard.
"We played really hard, but we struggled a little bit on defense," Wright said. "(Jake) Carter was a load to handle and he proved it. They just outplayed us."
When the two teams played each other on Dec. 2, Carter was out with an injury. Baldwin won the game 72-50.
"It was a tough loss, knowing that we beat them early on," Cooper said. "They were without Carter then, which was big, obviously. Over the weekend, I looked at our season and we had a great season. That helped me, but it was a tough loss for our guys."
Carter's presence in the paint forced a lot of missed shots from Baldwin, which only hit 16 of 51 shots from the field. The Bulldogs also only made 14 of 24 free throws.
Baldwin started the game by falling behind 4-1 quickly. Then BHS trailed 14-10 at the end of the first quarter.
"We got down early, but came back," Cooper said. "We just couldn't finish. We shot about 30 percent for the game, and you're not going to win games shooting that badly. We got doubled up on rebounds."
Cooper also said the experience of a crowded gym for sub-state might have affected his team's performance.
"Our guys have had a lot of new experiences this year and that was one of them," Cooper said. "We were playing in front of a really packed gym in a big game. I think our guys were really tight initially."
After falling behind 20-10, the Bulldogs battled back in the second quarter to tie the game at 22-22. At halftime, the Chargers led 27-26.
SFT again started the third quarter with a run as it went on a 10-2 spurt. Baldwin again fought back to close the lead to 40-37 as both teams headed into the fourth quarter.
"I think we didn't really relax until halfway through the third quarter," Cooper said. "That's when we started playing a little bit better. Anytime, you are behind in a game, you use a lot of energy trying to get back in the game. Then once you get there, you surge for that extra energy and it's not there."
With 4:31 left in the game, the Chargers led 49-38. The Bulldogs led a quick charge with a lay-up from senior Ryan Jorgenen and free throws from senior Aaron Hannon and junior Andrew Madl to close the lead to 49-43. After a basket by Carter, BHS sophomore Drew Berg drained a three-pointer and Jorgensen converter a three-point play. Baldwin only trailed 51-49 with 2:35 left and the hometown crowd was behind the Bulldogs.
"We made a big run there," Wright said. "We thought we were in it for a second there, then we looked back up and we were back down. I wish we could have rolled a little more with that momentum."
In the final 2:35, SFT outscored Baldwin 11-1 to win the game.
Junior Blake Wieden led Baldwin in scoring with 17 points. Wright added nine points, while Berg, Hannon and Jorgensen each scored six.
Wright said the Chargers controlled the tempo of the game, which hurt the Bulldogs.
"We want to get out and play fast and we let them play their style of game," Wright said. "They got it down to Carter and slowed us down."
Cooper said he liked the effort his team gave, but they just weren't focused mentally enough.
"I was proud of the effort physically," Cooper said. "I think we played really hard. Mentally, I didn't think we came out with the right approach. I don't think that was their fault, because they had never been in that situation before."
Despite the loss, Cooper was proud of the team's season. The Bulldogs finished with a league record of 9-3, better than last year's 3-9 league record.
"I am extremely happy with our season," Cooper said. "I can't tell you how much fun it was for us as coaches. I truly believe our seniors had a good season. I am happy with the direction of the program."
Wright said many members of the team will be playing spring sports, which began last week.
"A lot of us are playing track, baseball or golf," Wright said. "It should be pretty fun and we're looking forward to it."