Boys steal victory from Paola
Taking the lead only once in a basketball game isn't usually a successful recipe for victory, unless that lead is the final one.
After a 2-2 tie, the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team trailed Paola for more than 27 minutes Tuesday night in its first home game of the season.
Then, BHS junior Drew Berg gave the Bulldogs the lead and eventually the victory when he drained a three-pointer with nine seconds left in the game. Baldwin won the game 44-43 to move its record to 4-1 on the season.
"It was huge," Berg said of win. "We didn't play very well. That was our first lead. That was a big win."
A steal by senior Blake Wieden tied the game at 41-41 with 2:14 left. Paola then took the lead with 1:35 left on a lay-up. A missed shot and foul by Baldwin gave Paola possession with less than 30 seconds remaining.
The Panthers turned the ball over on a five-second call when they were trying to inbound the ball from the sideline.
Coach Eric Toot called a timeout and drew up a play for his team.
"They had been sagging off of Drew on that screen and roll," Toot said. "We talked about looking for it there, but we didn't say that was the No. 1 option, but it was an option."
Junior Dustin Schiller began driving to the basket when he delivered the ball to Berg, who waited atop the three-point arc. Berg squared his feet and sunk the game-winning shot.
"I was like, 'thank God,'" Berg said. "I was running a pick and roll for Schiller and he made a great play by taking his man and my man with him. I was wide open, he threw it to me and I got lucky."
Toot said Schiller deserves more credit than Berg for the play.
"I thought the pass was better than the shot," Toot said. "I thought Dustin executed the play. The guy that makes the shot usually gets all of the credit, but I think all of the credit needs to go to Dustin Schiller because he ran the play exactly like it's supposed to be run. He gave him a perfect pass to catch and shoot in rhythm. I think you need to give the passer the credit on that play."
Paola took one last shot, but missed. Berg grabbed the rebound with two seconds left and was fouled immediately. He missed the free throw and the Panthers last-second shot missed. It was the second time Baldwin has beaten Paola this season.
The Bulldogs defeated the Panthers 57-49 in the consolation game of the Paola Tournament on Dec. 15. Toot said he was glad to walk away from Tuesday's contest with a win, even though maybe his team should have lost.
"It feels really good," Toot said. "When you have an opportunity to win a game that you probably shouldn't, you take it. They don't come around very often. We were down the whole game, but we kept battling. We got ourselves in a position to have a chance at the end and that's what's important."
Baldwin fell behind early in the game as it struggled to score. BHS only managed two field goals in the first quarter. Paola took a 16-7 lead into the second quarter.
The Panthers opened up their lead to 25-11, before Baldwin closed the half with a 7-2 run in the final 2:30 of the quarter. Berg scored six of those points, but Paola still led 27-18.
"We didn't rebound very well," Berg said. "We shot the ball really poorly in the first half. Luckily we played good defense, because that kept us in the game."
The Bulldogs continued cutting the lead in the third quarter. They held Paola to eight points in the period and scored 14 of their own. With the lead down to three points, BHS was in place for the comeback.
Paola led by six with 4:21 left until Wieden hit a three-point shot that cut the lead in half and started the Bulldogs' rally.
Wieden led the team with 17 points, most of which came in the second half. Berg was the only other Bulldog in double figures as he added 11 points. Baldwin only sank seven of 18 free throws Tuesday.
Toot was proud that his team kept fighting throughout the entire game, despite not playing great offensively.
"It was sluggish offensively," Toot said. "We just didn't make shots in the first half again, sort of the same thing that happened at Central Heights. What I am most proud of is that we are at a point defensively where we can hang around when we are not scoring. If we didn't play good defense in the first half, we are down 20. If you play defense, you've got a chance.
"These guys have played hard all year for me," Toot said. "I'm proud of the effort that they give every day. They truly want to be successful and they want to have a good season. You can tell a lot about a kid and his character by how they play on the defensive end."
Tuesday's game was also the first home contest for BHS this season. They will again play at home Friday against Wellsville.
"It's nice to play at home," Toot said. "We've got a good stretch of home games there. We play here Friday, one game next week and then the BIT (Baldwin Invitational Tournament). We need to take advantage of it."
The Bulldogs will tip-off at 8 p.m. Friday in the Baldwin Junior High School gym. Berg hopes they will continue playing well Friday.
"We are playing pretty well right now and we are on a three-game winning streak," Berg said. "Hopefully, we can keep it going."
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