Shooting struggles send Bulldogs home early
TONGANOXIE -- This year's glass slipper didn't fit Baldwin's feet, but instead nearly fit that of rival Eudora.
A season filled with hopes and expectations came to a screeching halt here Friday night in the semifinals of the Class 4A sub-state. A 42-30 loss to Eudora ended the Baldwin High School girls' basketball team's season with a 16-6 record.
"I think everybody feels bad about the way it ended, but I know in particular the seniors took it hard," coach Bob Martin said. "They've done such a great job for us all year. You are going to take the last one hard no matter how it ends. It ends that way for everybody except for the state champ."
Poor offensive execution and the Cardinals' defense combined for an ugly night for Baldwin. The Bulldogs only shot 27.3 percent from the field and leading scorer senior Kelsey Verhaeghe was held to only five points.
"I was frustrated because I couldn't get open," Verhaeghe said. "I tried anything I could but just couldn't get open, so it was frustrating."
The Cardinals, seeded No. 6 in the sub-state, knocked off No. 3 seed Bishop Ward on Feb. 27. Then they beat No. 2 seed Baldwin before losing to No. 1 seeded Tonganoxie in the championship.
Verhaeghe suggested the Bulldogs might have been overlooking the Cardinals while having their sights on the Chieftains.
"It was a really hard loss," Verhaeghe said. "We weren't expecting to lose to Eudora, but we were expecting to advance to play Tonganoxie. I don't know if we looked ahead or what, but we didn't play together or anything."
Baldwin had defeated the Cardinals earlier in the season 47-38 in Eudora. Martin said the Cardinals knew Verhaeghe was Baldwin's weapon and they shut her down.
"They did a great job on her," Martin said. "Our other girls had some good shots, especially in the first quarter. When those things didn't fall, it affected us a bit. We just struggled."
Stepping up in her final game was senior Becca Stroman as she scored 12 points in the finale. Despite the personal success, Stroman was heart-broken by the loss.
"The loss to Eudora was really tough, especially since we had already beaten them earlier in the year," Stroman said. "None of us were ready to be finished with basketball on Friday, so it was a sad night."
Both teams struggled to score in the first half, but the Cardinals managed a few more points. The two teams were tied 4-4 after the first quarter, but Eudora took a 14-11 lead into halftime.
Baldwin only scored three field goals in the first half, two of which came in the first 3:30 of the game. The final one of the half was a three-pointer from sophomore Tracie Weege. She finished the game with six points.
Martin was afraid a poor shooting night would be the cause if the Bulldogs were to lose a sub-state game.
"We've been a team that has shot well all year," Martin said. "We didn't shoot very well at all, so you have to give credit to Eudora's defense. We were going to go as far as our shooting will take us and we had an off night.
"We were pretty disappointed, because we were hoping to go on and maybe challenge Tonganoxie the next night," he said. "It had to end but that was a tough ending."
The offensive woes continued for the Bulldogs after the break. Verhaeghe and junior Ashley Tucker each scored a basket to keep BHS close early in the third quarter.
After Tucker's shot with 5:00 remaining in the period, Baldwin only scored one free throw as it trailed 28-16 heading into the fourth quarter.
"We let them slip away from us in the third quarter, but we just never got anything going on offense. It's a shame because we had such a good year. We were hoping it would end better but that shouldn't take away from how good of a year we had."
Baldwin was able to sink a few shots in the final quarter, but it struggled to keep Eudora from doing the same. BHS never cut the lead to single digits as Stroman scored the final 10 points for Baldwin.
Eudora sank a few free throws down the stretch to secure the win and berth in the sub-state finals.
"You never want to end like that, especially with a loss to Eudora and playing bad," Verhaeghe said. "We had a really good season, so we should look at how successful that was and not the end."
Stroman said the team had a goal of playing in the title game Saturday night, but was unable to complete that goal.
"Since we lost in the semifinals, it does make it tougher," Stroman said. "We really wanted to be playing in that championship game on Saturday, but we just didn't get it done. I think we were worried about Eudora and we all knew it was going to be a tough game, but it just wasn't our night."
Besides Stroman and Verhaeghe, it was the final game for seniors Katie Frank, Emily Krysztof and Amanda Vander Tuig. Baldwin finished the season with a record of 16-6 and 8-4 in the Frontier League.