Bulldogs to reunite with Cooper
Baldwin High School boys' basketball players are trying to ignore the match up, but there's no way around their first game of the season.
The Bulldogs will face JC Harmon High School for their opening game of the Panther Invitational Monday. Heath Cooper, the Bulldogs' coach last year, is the Harmon coach this season.
"I'm not even thinking about it," junior Drew Berg said. "It's just another game."
Senior Sam Scott said it will be fun playing Cooper's team, but the match up won't add anything to the game.
"I don't think it will be weird," Scott said. "Since it's our first game, we will come out to play against anybody. It will be exciting to come out and play against him."
Cooper led BHS to a 15-7 record last year, but resigned in April to take a job closer to his home in Kansas City, Kan.
The Bulldogs, led by first-year coach Eric Toot, will play Harmon at 4 p.m. Monday in Paola. "It's getting to that time where it's time to play," Toot said. "I know they are excited to play and see where we are at as a team. We will get that chance Monday and Tuesday."
The BHS players are also ready to begin the season Monday afternoon.
"I'm really excited about getting this year started off right," Scott said. "We want to see how we rank against other teams and where we are in the league."
Berg likes the idea of playing a different team instead of competing against his teammates everyday.
"I'm really looking forward to the first game," Berg said. "I can't wait. It will be nice playing someone else for a change."
Before the Bulldogs play Harmon, they have a few aspects of the game that need improving if they wish to have success.
"We need to work on playing better defense, especially help side," Berg said. "We also need to get in our offensive sets better, instead of just free lancing."
On Tuesday night, Toot and his assistant coaches, Chad Scoby and Jason Crowder, got a good look at their team. The Bulldogs hosted a scrimmage for the public at the Baldwin Junior High School gym.
Toot had mixed emotions about the scrimmage.
"Overall, I liked how we competed," Toot said. "I thought we came out and we gave a good effort. There were some problems with defensive transition that I wasn't really happy with, but those are things we can work on."
The varsity and junior varsity squads were divided into two teams for the scrimmage. Both Scott and Berg were happy to be on the court playing a competitive contest.
"I thought it was really good," Scott said. "It was nice to come out and get running and play competitive."
"I thought it was good," Berg said. "We were getting all of our jitters out before our first game."
Early in the scrimmage, both teams were running up and down the court at a furious pace, which didn't allow Toot a chance to see his newly installed offense.
"I think they were nervous," Toot said. "They were going at full speed, so they probably just needed to motor down just a little bit and relax. I think they did that later in the scrimmage.
"We talked about it and I thought they did," Toot said. "We talked about the need to run the offense, just so we can run it and get used to it because everything is new. I thought also we got back better defensively, so that helped, too. When you are shooting lay-ups, you don't have a chance to run your offense."
Scott agreed, saying the second half of the scrimmage was under control offensively.
"Our first couple of quarters were mostly up and down the court and there wasn't a lot of set offense," Scott said. "It was basically a lot of fast breaks. In the second half, we got stuff together and started running some offensive sets. That's when we actually started working through stuff we needed to be working through."
One problem Toot found with the team's early enthusiasm was it wore the players down quicker.
"I thought they got winded early, which is normal, even though they are in shape," Toot said. "You've got to fight through that and get your second wind. You give so much energy early because you are excited to play."
The Harmon game will be the opening game of the Panther Invitational. Baldwin will then play Tuesday against either Kansas City Ward or Belton (Mo.). If BHS loses Monday, it will play at 4 p.m., but if it wins, the game will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday.