Early lead propels BIT victory
A speedy 12-2 lead turned into a blowout as 11 players scored points for the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team Tuesday night.
BHS made quick work of Topeka Cornerstone in the first round of the Baldwin Invitational Tournament. BHS won 78-46 to advance to the semifinals.
"It's good to be on the winner's side of the bracket that's for sure," coach Eric Toot said. "You've got to win that first one to move on and hopefully play for a championship. It was nice to win that first one."
The Bulldogs will next play Ottawa at 7 p.m. Friday in the early semifinal game.
"I was pretty happy to get the win," sophomore Brandon Tommer said. "I am just ready to play Ottawa. It will be a big game with a great atmosphere."
Every player on the Baldwin team played Tuesday night, with many of the bench players playing a significant amount of minutes.
"I think we had some really good bench points tonight," said Tommer. "We shared the ball pretty well tonight, maybe too unselfishly."
Tommer came off the bench to score eight points for the Bulldogs. Senior Blake Wieden led the team with 22 points, while fellow senior Sam Scott added 12. Junior Drew Berg and senior Andrew Madl each contributed nine points to the victory.
Six other players scored for the Bulldogs Tuesday. Toot was happy with his bench players' efforts.
"I thought the bench played well tonight," Toot said. "I was especially pleased with Brandon Tommer. I thought he stepped up. He has a lot of potential and he's been working really hard in practice. It was good to reward him tonight and he came through."
Baldwin's last game was Jan. 9 at Louisburg because the weather postponed Friday's contest against Santa Fe Trail to Feb. 9. The Bulldogs didn't practice until Monday, which may have led to a sluggish first half.
"We've practiced once since Thursday and I think it showed," Toot said. "When you get out of that routine, especially defensively, you start to play more with your hands than you should. It leads to fouls and not very smart basketball. We practiced Monday and that's been it."
Toot also said he didn't believe the few days off would affect the Bulldogs' conditioning.
"I'm not too worried about rest," Toot said. "We're in pretty good shape and our kids play hard in practice, which usually means that your team is going to be in shape. The lay off probably hurt us a bit, but at this point in the season, it's nice to have a rest, too."
Despite the missed practices, Baldwin did play well during the first three minutes of Tuesday's contest. BHS jumped on Cornerstone 12-2 after the Saints scored the first bucket of the game.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to 16 points at halftime by closing the second quarter with an 8-2 run.
"I think it's very important to get off to a good start in any game," Toot said. "It's so hard to come from behind, because you have to spend so much energy to fight back. That's what happened to us at Louisburg, so we made it a focus tonight to come out early, be aggressive and try to get out to an early lead, which we were able to do."
Baldwin continued its onslaught during the second half. Berg and Wieden combined for 11 points during the third quarter.
BHS kept scoring in the fourth quarter as the bench players contributed numerous minutes late in the game.
Toot was proud of how his team played defense during the second half, after a foul-filled first two quarters.
"I was pleased with the second half," Toot said. "We just fouled too much in the first half, which to me is a sign of bad defense. I thought in the second half the kids had more focus, played more with their feet and didn't reach as much. It showed, because we played better defense in the second half."
Madl was thrilled to win and advance in the BIT, since it's his final year as a Bulldog.
"It feels good to win," Madl said. "We played really hard and it showed. We were a little sloppy in the first half. We made some adjustments and came out and finished strong. We came out with the win."
The Bulldogs and the Cyclones will meet for the first time all season at 7 p.m. Friday.
"It will be a challenge, but that's why we play and coach," Toot said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere. They will bring a lot of people and I know we'll have a lot of fans here. It will be exciting."