Sub-state deja vu for BHS girls
Saturday night's Class 4A sub-state championship had that eerie feeling of dejvu for the Baldwin High School girls' basketball team.
Last year, the Bulldogs beat Spring Hill in the semifinal round 46-40 before being crushed 57-29 by Iola in the championship.
On Thursday, the Bulldogs were once again victorious over the Broncos in the semifinals, setting them up for an Iola team that lost one senior from the previous year. But this year's game would be at Baldwin.
"It feels pretty good to move on to the championship game," senior Ellie Meinen said after the semifinal win. "It always feels good to beat Spring Hill, especially in sub-state. Iola is kind of big, but we are hoping the result will be quite opposite of how it was last year."
Unfortunately, the result would be the same two straight years. Iola (21-2) dominated the Bulldogs (17-6) by holding them to only two field goals for the game in a 56-21 loss.
"It was tough to see my high school career end at that kind of deficit," Meinen said. "I think we played really hard and never gave up. We showed our true character."
Coach Bob Martin was proud of his team's effort, but he knew they were just outmatched Saturday.
"I think our girls came out and gave their best shot at it," Martin said. "We played a very good basketball team that overmatched us. Their size was just too much for us to overcome."
Meinen didn't think this year's loss was as difficult as last year's, since shooting was the main problem this year.
"I didn't think this year was as tough as last year," Meinen said. "I thought we played all right, besides the fact that we shot horribly."
Baldwin only made two of 42 field goals for the game.
"I thought we ran our offense fairly well," Martin said. "We got some chances at some shots. They are just so big, it was tough getting shots against them. I thought we executed as well as we could. We just couldn't put the ball in the hole against them."
Baldwin started the game by scoring on its first offensive play after winning the tip off. Meinen made her layup to give Baldwin a quick 2-0 lead.
Two minutes later Meinen sank two free throws to give Baldwin a 4-2 advantage.
"I felt like our attitude was really good coming in and we challenged them," Martin said. "We came out and gave our best shot and didn't back down against them."
Baldwin's lead didn't last long as the Bulldogs failed to score for the next 11 minutes of the game. Sophomore Ashley Tucker sank a free throw with 2:48 left in the first half to make the score 19-5. Baldwin managed to make four more free charity shots before the half. Iola led 25-9 at halftime.
"It was pretty tough to stop them," Martin said. "They got some stuff inside against us. We battled them as best we could. We just struggled at putting the ball in the hole."
The second half was much of the same for Baldwin as Iola continued to make lay-ups and the Bulldogs struggled offensively.
They (Iola) hurt us inside defensively, which I figured they probably would," Martin said. "I hoped we would have done a little better job on that."
Baldwin's second and final field goal came late in the game when junior Amanda Vander Tuig drained a three-pointer.
Meinen said Iola's size created problems for the Bulldogs' offense.
"Their size made us adjust our shot to shoot over them, when we really didn't need to," Meinen said. "We didn't shoot that well at all. We just had a really off night."
Martin said some of Baldwin's offensive woes could be contributed to Iola's defense. The Fillies had a 6-foot-1 player guarding Baldwin's leading scorer, junior Kelsey Verhaeghe.
"It really did create some problems for us," Martin said. "She was working to get open and that was hard with a 6-foot-1 girl on her. When she did get open shots, she rushed them a bit. It just wasn't her night. If Kelsey is not on, we will struggle offensively."
Verhaeghe didn't struggle on Thursday when the Bulldogs beat Spring Hill 57-46. She led all scorers with 23 points and didn't even play the entire second quarter because of foul trouble.
"We were sharp and we were executing very well offensively," Martin said. "We were just pretty sound and we hit some shots."
Verhaeghe picked up three early fouls in the first quarter, which forced her to sit the rest of the half. Baldwin led 18-10 after the first quarter.
"I think we came out really well and then kind of fizzled a bit," Meinen said. "We lost some intensity, but we played really hard all game. We kept our composure down the stretch and it paid off."
The Bulldogs maintained their lead in the second quarter without Verhaeghe and led 26-20 at halftime.
"Kelsey got the three fouls early and I think that limited us a little bit in the second quarter," Martin said. "Otherwise, we might have had a big lead on them at halftime."
After only scoring three points in the first half, Verhaeghe exploded for 20 after halftime. She scored 10 of Baldwin's 12 points in the third quarter.
During a two-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter, Verhaeghe scored five points, stole the ball twice and grabbed an offensive rebound.
"We put together a really good fourth quarter," Martin said. "I thought our girls really dug down and did some things right. They made some big shots."
In the final minute of the game, senior Amy Craig knocked down four of five free throws to help secure the win for Baldwin.
"It feels good to beat them again after they beat us three times in a row in sub-state," Craig said. "I thought we played really well as a team. Free throws are always big in a close game like this."
Baldwin shot 52 percent from two-point range for the game and made five of 15 three-pointers.
"It seemed like we were really in-sync," Craig said of Baldwin's offense. "We have a little saying that is 'let it rain.' It was raining tonight."
The Bulldogs finished the season with a record of 17-6, an improvement from last year's 11-12 record.
"It was a good season and a big improvement from last year," Meinen said. "We got a lot better as the season went on."
Martin said the team should be happy with their season, even though it ended so rough.
"It was a marvelous season," Martin said. "I think that the girls will feel very proud about what they have done and I hope our community is very proud of what they have done. They have to be proud they got everything out of themselves they could."