Archive for Thursday, January 25, 2007

First-year success

January 25, 2007

Eric Toot didn't waste much time on cementing his mark on Baldwin High School history.

In only his 10th game as BHS boys' basketball coach, he won a title that has eluded the Bulldogs for 15 years. Toot coached his Bulldogs to the first Baldwin Invitational Tournament championship since 1992.

"I haven't talked to the kids about goals as far as championships," coach Eric Toot said. "But absolutely for me, when I took the job this was a week that I was looking forward to. I was hoping we would be challenging for the championship every year."

Baldwin (8-2) won its home tournament with a 62-56 victory over Augusta Saturday night in front of a crowded Bulldog gym.

Junior Drew Berg led BHS with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while senior Blake Wieden added 21 points. Each player sank four three-pointers during the game.

"They were in a zone and Dustin Schiller did a great job of finding the open guy," Berg said. "I was open a few times and he got me the ball."

Toot was proud of Berg and his seniors Saturday night.

"I can't say enough about the game that Drew Berg had, not only on the offensive end, but also on the defensive end. Drew, Sam (Scott) and Andrew (Madl) worked their tails off on the boards. We got Drew and Blake to the line at the end of the game and that's what we want."

As a team, Baldwin made nine of 17 shots from behind the arc Saturday night. The Bulldogs shot 43 percent from the field and made 19 of 30 free throws.

The foul shots impressed Toot, after Baldwin only made 23 of 44 the night before against Ottawa.

"We hit some big free throws," Toot said. "Andrew hit some big ones and Drew especially stepped up."

Madl said the team practiced free throws for a while during its shoot around Saturday morning.

"We worked on them during the shoot around this morning," Madl said. "We were focused and we made them. It worked out good."

Berg sank seven of eight free throws during the game, including all six of his attempts in the fourth quarter. Junior Dustin Schiller also made three of four during the final quarter.

Madl scored four of Baldwin's final six points, which all came from the foul line.

"When you're in the game, you don't feel it (pressure)," Madl said. "My mom was probably way more nervous than I was. We are used to shooting free throws, so I just went down and did what I do in practice."

Once again, Baldwin started the game off well as Wieden hit two three-pointers in the first three minutes of the contest. Augusta tied the game at 6-6, but the Bulldogs regained their lead on three straight points from senior Sam Scott.

Berg and Madl each hit a three-pointer to give Baldwin a 16-11 lead after one quarter of action.

Toot was unsure how much energy his team would have after the up-tempo game it played on Friday against Ottawa. The result surprised him.

"We expended so much energy last night, especially our kids that are playing a lot," Toot said. "Tonight they came out and did the same thing. I guess it's good to be young. I know there were some times when they were really tired tonight, but they fought through it."

BHS kept its lead for much of the second quarter, but Augusta did tie the score at 26-26. Then Berg dropped his third three on the Orioles and Baldwin took a 29-28 lead into halftime.

"At times, I was frustrated with our defense, but give Augusta a ton of credit," Toot said. "They run more plays than any team I've seen and they do them well. We got caught a few times, but we continued to battle. That's the one thing about our team. If we get beat or make a bad play, we go on and continue to play hard."

Baldwin struggled to defend Augusta's backdoor plays that scored several points for the Orioles.

"It is tough," Toot said. "They got us on the lob a couple of times and that was a bit frustrating, because we had talked about it. When a team executes, it doesn't matter if you know it's still coming. They are still going to successfully run their plays and they did a lot of times."

The Bulldogs went on a 13-3 run in the third period to gain a 44-35 lead. They eventually took a 45-39 lead into the final quarter.

Each team exchanged free throws during the fourth quarter, but Baldwin never let Augusta closer than four points. BHS held on to win the tournament championship.

"It feels great, especially in my senior year," Madl said. "We haven't done it in a while, so it feels great to win as a team in my last year."

Toot was thrilled to win the tournament in his first year as the BHS coach, but he was even happier for his players.

"It feels really good," Toot said. "Our kids deserve it. They have been absolutely outstanding up to this point in the season. When you have a team that plays as unselfish and as hard as ours, it's nice to see them rewarded."

He went on to say the home crowd helped the Bulldogs during the title game.

"It's great having a home tournament," Toot said. "We had outstanding crowds and our student section was great the last two nights. It just makes it a fun atmosphere for the kids. That's what basketball should be about."

Toot gave his team a day off Monday, but the Bulldogs returned to the court Tuesday to prepare for their upcoming contest at Gardner.

Baldwin will play at 8 p.m. tonight at Gardner. The freshman team will play at 5 p.m. with the junior varsity to follow at 6:30 p.m. The varsity game will cap off the night of boys basketball.

The Bulldogs will also host Anderson County Tuesday at home. It will be a six-game night with the varsity tipping off at 8 p.m.

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