Bulldogs sink late foul shots, Ottawa in process
Missing 21 free throw attempts isn't usually a recipe for success when it comes to rivalry basketball contests.
However, making 23 of 44 foul shots, including 12 of 22 in the fourth quarter can help lead a team to a close victory.
The final seven of eight free throws were just enough for the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team, as it defeated Ottawa 60-52 in the semifinal round of the Baldwin Invitational Tournament Friday night.
"It was a big win for us," coach Eric Toot said. "Defensively, I couldn't have asked the kids to play any better or harder than what they did. It was just an outstanding effort by all of the kids tonight."
Senior Blake Wieden laughed about the team's free throws after the game, but said they sank the important ones.
"We missed a whole bunch earlier, but we made them when it counted," Wieden said.
Seniors Andrew Madl and Sam Scott combined to miss 13 free throw attempts during the game. Madl did make four in the final quarter.
Toot was disappointed with the team's performance from the line, but he took credit for the poor shooting.
"We were struggling at the line," Toot said. "I must be the worst free throw coach in America. I think I know how to teach them, but obviously I don't because we are struggling there. We just have kids with a lot of guts. At the end they stepped up and hit them, which was nice to see."
After Ottawa tied the game at 47-47 with 3:45 left in the game, the Bulldogs only missed one free throw to secure the victory.
"I thought we played hard," junior Zach Durr said. "When things started getting bad in the second half, we kept our composure and kept playing like we had the whole game."
Durr suffered a broken finger during the first quarter on his shooting hand. He didn't play much of the second quarter and none in the second half until he was forced to.
Junior point guard Dustin Schiller picked up his fifth and final foul during the middle of the fourth quarter. Durr came in and gave Baldwin solid minutes and even sank both of his free throws with 52 seconds on the clock.
"I felt a lot of pressure from not playing the whole second half and then having to come in," Durr said. "The guys really helped me through it. It hurt to shoot and I really couldn't feel the whole ball like I usually do. They went down, so I guess it's all good."
Toot was proud of Durr for fighting through the pain and playing well late in the game.
"He got three in a hurry," Toot said of Schiller's fouls. "He is so important to the team, but Zach Durr stepped up huge. He's probably got a broken finger and he came in and gave two good minutes. He just showed a lot of guts."
Wieden also sank some big foul shots down the stretch. He made three of four in the final 30 seconds of the contest.
He led the Bulldogs with 21 points and four steals. Madl also scored in double figures with 15 points. Schiller tallied seven assists in the contest.
Several of the Bulldogs enjoyed the noisy, crowded fans that nearly packed the BJHS gym.
"It was the craziest thing I've ever been to," Schiller said. "I play soccer and there's never many fans there. This was crazy. At one point, my head was hurting because it was so loud."
Wieden thought the home fans helped lift Baldwin to victory.
"It was probably the most packed gym I've ever played in," Wieden said. "It was really loud, especially toward the end. The fans really got into it and I think it helped us come out on top."
Baldwin wasted no time in jumping on the Cyclones. BHS went on a 10-2 run before closing out the quarter leading 16-6.
"It's so important to get off to a good start, because when you are playing from behind it takes so much concentration and effort," Toot said.
BHS continued pouring it on with a 7-0 surge to begin the second quarter. Ottawa did hit a three-pointer right before halftime to close Baldwin's lead to 27-15.
The Cyclones turned up their defensive pressure in the second half and even cut the Bulldog lead to five points at one time. BHS carried a six-point lead into the final quarter, leading 40-34.
Baldwin immediately increased that lead to nine points, but the Cyclones answered with a 10-1 run to tie the game. Then, Baldwin began making free throws and won the semifinal game 60-52.
"I was proud of how we played," Toot said. "I knew it was probably going to come down to the wire. They just have too many good players and (Victor) Ojeleye can score at anytime over anybody. We figured they were going to come back on us. We just had to stay poised."
Toot credits the Bulldogs' assertiveness on offense to the win.
"The key to the game is we were aggressive offensively," Toot said. "We kept attacking and taking the ball to the hole. That's important when you play a press, because they aren't going to let you run your offense and hold the ball."
Baldwin attacked the Cyclone defense, especially the full-court press. Durr said Toot would have up to seven junior varsity players on the court for defense during practice last week.
"Coach knew they (0ttawa) were going to do that, so he set up a press breaker that I thought worked really well," Schiller said. "We took care of the ball pretty well and did everything right."