BHS boys’ fourth quarter rally falls short
LOUISBURG -- All three shots bounced off the backboard and the iron rim before time expired on the Bulldogs.
In a matter of 7.2 seconds, the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team managed to attempt three field goals, all within six feet of the basket. Unfortunately, all three shots teased the Bulldogs (2-1) as they lost a heartbreaker here Friday night to Louisburg, 70-69.
"It's always disappointing to lose," senior Drew Berg said. "Our team showed a lot of heart in the final quarter of the game. I was very proud of how we finished the game."
Baldwin erased a 16-point fourth quarter deficit in the championship game of the first-ever Wildcat/Bulldog Classic round robin tournament.
Senior Dustin Schiller raced the ball up the court on the final play of the game. He attempted a near layup with a Wildcat defender in his face. The shot kissed off the backboard and rim. Two other BHS players each had put-backs that would have won the game.
"We did a great job of executing," coach Eric Toot said. "Dustin did exactly what we talked about. In the timeout, we told him he could either score or pass out of his penetration. He got a great look at the basket and we had some great help on the backside boards. Everybody can look at the last play as to why we lost, but it wasn't the last play that did us in. We missed some easy shots and gave up way too many easy shots throughout the game."
The Bulldogs began the final period with a 13-2 run to close Louisburg's lead to 60-55. Juniors Clad Kueffer and Brandon Tommer combined for 10 points during the spurt.
"In the fourth quarter, we started playing tougher defense," Berg said. "We also got a lot of easy baskets. Everything was clicking."
Baldwin climbed to within two points later in the quarter, but the Wildcats quickly opened it back up to five points. A personal foul and technical foul on a Louisburg player gave BHS a chance to rally back.
Freshman Justin Vander Tuig and Berg each knocked down a pair of free throws to bring the Bulldogs within one point with 51 seconds left in the game.
"The technical was a big break for us," Toot said. "We were running out of time. Justin stepped up and hit two huge free throws. Then Drew followed him up with two big ones. That put us right back in the game and gave us a chance to win."
After two missed free throws by Louisburg, Berg sank a jump shot that gave BHS its first lead since the first quarter.
However, the Wildcats' star senior Jordan Embers was fouled on the next possession. Embers made both foul shots to give Louisburg a 70-69 lead. That set up Baldwin's final play, which would fall short at the end.
"We put eight very good minutes together and that gave us a very positive feeling of what type of team we can be for the rest of the year," Toot said. "I was very proud of how the game ended. We all want to win, but we were down 16. Our kids never gave up and continued to battle each possession. That was extremely exciting to see and made me proud as their coach."
Tommer once again led the Bulldogs in scoring with 20 points. Berg added 15, while Kueffer was the other Bulldog in double digits with 14 points.
Baldwin made 24 of 52 field goals to shoot 46 percent for the game, including 51 percent from two-point range. BHS also sank 17 of 24 free throws, most of which came in the fourth quarter.
"We got off to a slow start at the free throw line," Toot said. "Then we actually shot very well during the second half."
Both teams came out of the gate scoring points at will. BHS led 10-9 early in the game, but wouldn't see the lead again until Berg's final basket.
Louisburg built its lead up to 12 points at halftime as it led 37-25. The Wildcats increased their lead during the third quarter to 19 points at one time, but BHS closed it to 16 by the end of the period.
Although the Bulldogs were hanging around during the first three quarters, Toot said his team was failing in one aspect of the game.
"I can sum it up with one phase of the game -- defensive transition," Toot said. "During the first three quarters, we had a lot of breakdowns. We didn't get back defensively, which, for the most part, was the difference in the game. In the fourth quarter, we finally fixed that and made them run their offense a little bit. We slowly got back in the game and had a chance to win at the end."
BHS also committed 20 turnovers, which was down from the first two games, where it committed 27 and 25 turnovers. Toot said his team must take better care of the ball if it wishes to win games.
"We still had 20, which is too many," Toot said. "We are playing at a pretty fast pace, which we want to do, but we have to be able to do it without turning the ball over. If we are going to run, we need to cut our turnovers down."
BHS will travel to Central Heights to play at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The first game of the night will begin at 5 p.m. Then the Bulldogs will host Wellsville at 8 p.m. Dec. 21. That game was postponed Tuesday night.
"We have two games left before Christmas, so hopefully we get them in," Toot said. "They are two important games, because we need to be looking ahead to seeding in the Baldwin Invitational Tournament and sub-state."