Bulldogs drop first league contest
De Soto A full-court press and a late fourth quarter rally nearly helped the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team escape with a win here Friday.
Instead of advancing to 3-0 in Frontier League action, the Bulldogs fell to 2-1 as they lost to the Wildcats, 54-48.
Friday's defeat ended the Bulldogs' (10-2) eight-game winning streak that included the Baldwin Invitational Tournament championship.
"It was a really intense game," coach Eric Toot said. "Both teams just played extremely hard for four quarters. I am just very proud of our kids for coming on the road and giving the effort they did tonight. It says a lot about our kids."
De Soto's gym was packed and provided the environment of a postseason contest, despite being a late January game. The intensity increased during the final quarter of play as the Bulldogs began rallying from 13 points down during the final 3:15.
"It was really effective I thought," senior Drew Berg said of the full-court press. "We played good defense and attacked them full court. We worked tough and got some steals. We just didn't get the rebounds we needed."
With De Soto leading 46-33, Baldwin cranked up the intensity and applied a full-court press. The Bulldogs also went on a 13-2 run, sparked by junior Clad Kueffer's pair of three-pointers.
Senior Jesse Green and Brandon Tommer each knocked down two free throws during the late rally. Kueffer made the final two baskets to bring the score to 48-46 with 54 seconds remaining.
"We were scrambling there," Toot said. "We are not a pressing team. I thought our kids did really well for coming out and throwing on a press that we have probably worked on once all year. We had to take some chances and we were going to have to foul anyway."
De Soto nearly sealed the game on its inbounds throw after Kueffer's basket. The Wildcats threw it deep and connected on a layup to go up four points. After a missed shot, the Bulldogs were forced to foul the Wildcats. De Soto's Andre Linzy and Brendon Hudson each sank their foul shots to clinch the victory.
"They got the right guys to the line and that's a sign of good coaching," Toot said. "Their kids knew who to get the ball to. Give them credit, because they played a heck of a game, too."
Despite the loss, Toot was proud of his players' efforts all night long Friday.
"Our kids never give up and it's unfortunate that we struggled so bad offensively," Toot said. "We have struggled scoring for about two weeks. Even against Augusta we only scored 46 points. Fortunately, we have kids that play so hard we are still in games."
Berg agreed with his coach, saying the Bulldogs had open shots, but were unable to make many shots all evening.
"We came out and we just didn't make shots," Berg said. "We ran our offense pretty well and got good shots. We just didn't make them."
The Bulldogs struggled to score early in the league contest as they managed six points in the first quarter and nine in the second. They trailed 28-15 at halftime.
"Tonight we could have been down 20 or 25, because we couldn't put it in the hole first half," Toot said. "We were only down 13 at half and we had a chance to make a little run at them."
Baldwin will have its chance to rebound with another league game Friday. BHS was scheduled to play Belton (Mo.) on Tuesday, but the game was postponed because of weather. The make-up date has not been set yet.
The Bulldogs will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gardner-Edgerton High School.
"They beat us last year in their house, so it's going to be a pretty good environment," Berg said.
Baldwin's next home contest will be Feb. 8 against Louisburg - the team that handed BHS its first loss of the season.
"The schedule is definitely back loaded with our tougher opponents," Toot said. "It will be a challenge for us for the rest of the year, but it's one we are looking forward to."
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