BHS girls stumble late, lose nail-biter
What looked to be the biggest victory of the season soon became the toughest loss to swallow.
For 30 minutes, the Baldwin High School girls' basketball team battled Frontier League powerhouse Paola Tuesday. Then, a controversial charging foul swung the momentum in the Panthers' direction.
The Bulldogs (3-2) narrowly missed beating Paola for the first time in three years as they lost 66-61.
"It was a really tough loss," junior Colby Heckathorne said. "We all played really hard, so to come that close and lose is really tough."
Coach Bob Martin agreed, saying the defeat was hard to take, because his team played so well for most of the game.
"It was tough," Martin said. "We competed pretty well against them, but we just didn't finish the game. I told them with three minutes to go that it was anybody's game and we have to win these next three minutes. We weren't able to execute at the end."
Neither team led by more than seven points as there were eight lead changes and six tied scores during the contest. The score was even at 55-55 when junior Heather Garcia drove in and scored a layup.
Then, the basket was taken away as the official called an offensive charging foul on Garcia.
"The charge was a big call," Martin said. "If we get that, it's a three-point play, maybe we are up three points and maybe that's the difference. It was a big play."
Paola then took the lead on its next possession, but Baldwin answered with a basket from senior Becca Stroman. That was the closest BHS would get.
The Panthers converted a three-point play and made two more layups to seal the victory. Baldwin did make a shot and two free throws but it wasn't enough as the time expired on the late rally.
"It was really hard, because we were so close to winning," junior Callie Craig said. "We played well, but we had a chance to win it. We just didn't play well at the end."
Baldwin converted clutch three-pointers at various times throughout the game. Senior Kelsey Verhaeghe and Garcia each hit one in the fourth quarter that tied the game up.
Craig hit one late in the first quarter that kept the Panthers close as they began to run away with the game early. She also hit another in the third and fourth quarters.
In the second period, Verhaeghe drained two while Garcia added another as the Bulldogs outscored the Panthers 22-14 in the quarter.
"I think we are a good outside shooting team," Martin said. "We are capable of shooting like that. We had a couple girls step up. Callie hit a couple of them. I thought Kelsey played with some patience with all of the pressure that was on her. Heather and Becca were really strong. I thought we got a lot of good effort out of a lot of people."
Heckathorne said the team has been working a lot on its offense and outside shooting during the season.
"I think we are just improving," Heckathorne said. "We are getting a lot better at the inside-outside play. We are getting better as a team."
Verhaeghe once again led the Bulldogs in scoring as she racked up 17 points. Garcia added 14 points of her own and Craig contributed 13.
Early in the game, Baldwin fell behind 11-6 before Craig hit one of her threes. BHS still trailed 13-9 after the first quarter.
During the second quarter, Baldwin began lighting up the scoreboard with baskets from six different players. The Bulldogs led 31-27 at halftime.
Paola caught up early in the third quarter, but Baldwin hung tough and only trailed 44-40 heading into the final eight minutes of the game.
"It was a pretty good effort all night," Martin said. "I thought our defense was really good at times. We hit some clutch shots. We are getting better."
The Bulldogs and Panthers met earlier in the season in the Eudora Tournament. Paola also won that game 63-54.
"We are getting better," Martin said. "We competed against them better than we did the first night against them."
Tuesday's game was the first for BHS after the Christmas break. Martin didn't think the layoff hurt his team.
"I thought we would come out and play pretty well," Martin said. "We have been practicing pretty hard the last several days. I told them before the game that we've gotten better since our last game."
The Bulldogs next take on Wellsville at 6:30 p.m. Friday at home.
"I told them after the game that they need to come ready to go," Martin said. "We've been talking all along about how this stretch in January is a chance to really improve ourselves. We really need to work to do that. This was just game number five of however many we've got. Win or lose, we have to keep on playing."