Berg bombs away at Wildcats
Drew Berg might not be a McDonald's All-American nominee, but he matched one point-for-point Tuesday night.
During his senior campaign, Berg has led the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team to many victories. On Tuesday, it took all 25 of his points to survive and advance from the first round of the Class 4A sub-state.
Berg and De Soto's Andre Linzy each scored 25 points for their respective teams. However, Berg's Bulldogs (17-4) outlasted the McDonald's All-American's Wildcats (10-11) 59-58.
"That was the most exciting game I've ever played in," Berg said. "We made a lot of big plays, but so did they. I knew we were going to win, because we have a lot of heart on this team and we fight until the end."
Berg scored 10 of 25 during the fourth quarter, nine of which came from a trio of three-pointers. His most important bucket of the night came with 25 seconds remaining in the game.
Off an inbounds play, senior Dustin Schiller found Berg open on the wing. Berg squared his feet and sank the three, breaking a 55-55 tie.
"That is one of our inbounds plays," Berg said. "Coach Toot called it and told me to knock it down and I did. Dustin made a great pass. Justin and Sam made great screens on the play."
After a missed shot by the Wildcats, Berg hit one of two free throws with 10 seconds left to give BHS a four-point lead.
"Drew was huge tonight," coach Eric Toot said. "We ran some solid plays for him. Some guys set some great screens and made some excellent passes to him. He stepped up and knocked them down, especially in the second half."
Despite the four-point lead, the game wasn't quite over. De Soto's Brendon Hudson drained a 25-foot three-pointer with two seconds left. After a Wildcat timeout, Berg was instantly fouled.
The usually reliable Berg missed the first foul shot. He purposely bricked the second one off the rim, but a Wildcat player quickly scooped up the rebound. Time ran out before he could heave an 80-foot shot that bounced off the back iron.
"I knew going in that it was going to be like a sub-state final," Toot said. "They're as good as anybody in our sub-state and it obviously showed tonight. This wasn't a typical 1-8 game by any means."
Toot was proud of his team's poise late in the game. The Bulldogs led by five points several times during the fourth quarter, despite trailing by four early in the quarter.
"We are 17-4, but we've been in a ton of close games," Toot said. "We've won a ton of close games and we've won most that have been close. That just showed tonight and you could tell that our kids were used to being in that type of game. For a team that's won 17 games, we haven't been in a lot of games where we have blown people out."
Junior Sam Beecher scored five points in final quarter and freshman Justin Vander Tuig added seven.
"Sam Beecher was terrific tonight, especially on the defensive end," Toot said. "He's been there for us all year. Tonight, with Brandon in foul trouble, he came in and was tremendous. He played longer than he's played all year. I am proud of him and happy for him."
Baldwin led by eight points during the second half before the Wildcats came out in a full-court trapping press. The momentum quickly shifted to De Soto in the third quarter.
"We came out at halftime knowing they would come out with something different," Clad Kueffer said. "When they pressed us, we weren't quite ready for it. It took us a while to adapt to it."
Despite the troubles in the second half, Toot said his players never quit playing hard.
"I've never had a team play as intense as we played for 32 minutes tonight," Toot said. "We came out with a lot of energy and usually when that happens, teams kind of relax. I don't think our kids ever relaxed. Now, we weren't smart the whole game, but as far as our intensity and playing hard, I thought we did it the entire game."
The Bulldogs were six-of-six from beyond the arc in the second half Tuesday. Berg hit four of those, while Kueffer sank the other two.
Kueffer said the Bulldogs forgot about their poor offensive game last week against Ottawa and focused at practice during the days prior to Tuesday's game.
"I think we had a really good week of practice," Kueffer said. "We were just hitting our shots tonight. Everybody stepped up tonight."
Toot agreed, saying the players were ready to forget about their 53-29 loss to Ottawa last Thursday.
"It didn't take long at all," Toot said. "Once we left the locker room Thursday, we were ready to move on. Tonight we bounced back and the kids just want to keep playing. They're not ready for their season to end."
Baldwin will play Bishop Ward at 6 p.m. Friday. Spring Hill is hosting the sub-state tournament for the Bulldogs. The other boys' match-up features Saint James Academy and Basehor-Linwood.
"If this doesn't pump you up, I don't know what does," Berg said. "It's either win or go home. If we don't win, we're done. It's our last hurrah. That's all of the motivation we need."