BHS boys survive close battle of Bulldogs
Baldwin High School senior Caj Kueffer has only scored 14 points all season, but his two biggest came late in Tuesday's contest.
Kueffer stepped to the free throw line with 15.2 seconds left in the game. He sank both foul shots to give Baldwin a 62-60 advantage over Anderson County.
BHS junior Drew Berg made one more free throw giving the Bulldogs (9-3) a 64-61 home victory.
"It was good to watch," coach Eric Toot said of the late free throws. "I figured eventually we would, because we have some decent shooters. Tonight they stepped up and made them. They were clutch. Caj Kueffer hit two big ones tonight."
Despite the significance of his shots, Kueffer said he felt no pressure to make the free throws.
"Any one of us could have made the free throws, I was just the one who got fouled," Kueffer said.
Senior Blake Wieden also knocked down all six of his free throws in the fourth quarter.
"Free throws definitely won the game for us," senior Sam Scott said. "They were fouling us when it was a close game and we had the composure to sink them tonight."
Tuesday's victory was the fourth Frontier League win of the season for Baldwin. ACHS finished fifth in the Baldwin Invitational Tournament after a close first-round loss.
The BHS players were happy to walk away Tuesday with a win.
"It feels really good, especially against a tough opponent like Anderson County," Scott said.
Toot knows his team defeated a tough league opponent Tuesday. He said much of the credit goes to the bench players.
"That's a really good basketball team we beat tonight," Toot said. "We were short handed, but we had some kids step up, like Caj Kueffer, Brandon Tommer and Sam Beecher. They gave us some big minutes when we needed it. The kids responded and, as usual, played hard. It was a great win."
The BHS bench came in handy because junior point guard Dustin Schiller didn't play because of illness. The back-up point guard, junior Zach Durr, broke his hand during the BIT and is not playing.
The illness and injury raised Toot's concern, but he hopes he didn't let his players see that.
"I probably was, but I hope I didn't portray that to the kids," Toot said. "Injuries and sickness happen, so you just have to deal with them. I think the kids were confident and ready to go."
Senior Andrew Madl and junior Drew Berg shared the point guard responsibilities Tuesday.
Berg was high scorer for BHS with 23 points. Wieden added 17 while Scott contributed 14.
"I was proud of the whole team," Toot said. "I thought Sam Scott played as tough as any kid can play. This team is giving great effort every single day and it's showing."
Baldwin did have trouble slowing down Anderson County's two-headed, twin brother monster of seniors Jeremy (6-5) and Josh Sutton (6-6). The brothers combined for 44 points.
"Those are two really good players," Toot said. "We fought as hard as we could to stop them. They had great games tonight, but it wasn't because of lack of defense. We were on them all night and they just made some great plays. Great players are going to do that."
Guarding the Suttons was difficult for Scott, but he said slowing them down was a key to victory.
"They are physical, athletic and huge," Scott said. "We knew that playing good defense on them and getting to the boards was going to be a big thing tonight."
Baldwin trailed for over half of the game. Midway through the third quarter BHS gained the lead. After a basket by Wieden, an ACHS players was called for not stepping out of bounds to inbound the ball.
Baldwin then went on a 15-2 run to end the quarter. Berg hit a half-court shot as time expired to give BHS a 51-42 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"Defensively, we were very strong in the third quarter and we got back into the game and got the lead," Toot said.
Last Thursday, Baldwin traveled to Gardner for a league contest. BHS led early, but only managed to score four points in the second quarter.
"I just thought they were so good defensively, it took us out of everything we wanted to do offensively," Toot said. "We just got out of a rhythm."
Gardner went on to win the game 62-42, as BHS committed 19 turnovers.
"In my opinion, Gardner is the best team I've seen this year so far," Toot said. "From top to bottom at every position, they are a solid basketball team. They showed it on Thursday."
Baldwin will next play at 8 p.m. Friday in Eudora. It will be the boys' teams only with the freshman starting at 5 p.m. Then BHS will travel to Spring Hill Tuesday. The same schedule will be used for those games.
On Wednesday, Baldwin will host Santa Fe Trail in a rescheduled game. It will be a six-game night with the varsity still playing at 8 p.m.
"It will be a tough test," Toot said of the Eudora game. "I saw them on Saturday and they've been on a nice run since after Christmas. They are going to be fired up, because the game's on TV and it's their King and Queen of courts. I'm sure we will match their intensity."