Archive for Thursday, January 31, 2008

Column: Tenacious Bulldogs hitting the hard court

January 31, 2008

It's been almost two-thirds of the high school basketball season and both Baldwin High School varsity basketball teams have experienced some highs and lows.

There have been more highs for both squads as they both sport winning records. The boys are 10-2 and the girls are 7-5. Not bad records considering they each lost valuable seniors.

As the late-to-midseason assessment continues, there is one characteristic that both teams possess. It will be the key to their postseason.

Of course, basketball squads must be able to put the little orange ball through the hoop or prevent their opponents from doing the same. But, the quality I'm talking about isn't found in every team. It takes certain players or coaches to bring this out. Baldwin High is full of both during all three sports' seasons.

Many of the basketball players have also been successful in other sports, which, in my opinion, all leads back to this one trait.

Simply put, it's tenacity.

Yes, the Bulldogs are a tenacious bunch, from top to bottom. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means "persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired."

That pretty much sums up this group of athletes at BHS. This fall's football season was one prime example of the hard work and "never say die" attitude that coaches instill in the Bulldogs. Much of that tenacity has carried over to the hardwood, with just a little more flair added to it.

When talking about the boys' team, that flair portrays the image of a shaggy-haired, blonde senior who has athletic talent flowing through his veins. Senior Dustin Schiller led the BHS soccer program to three successful years with his phenomenal skills.

Last winter his basketball skills and athletic ability took center stage. He became the Bulldogs' point guard and has improved as a leader and player since then. However, it's his speed, agility and willingness to show no regard for his body that sparks his teammates.

He will pester opposing point guards for nearly all 32 minutes of the contest. Even boys' coach Eric Toot admitted he has to hold Schiller back from pressing full court, but isn't sure it's always a wise idea. Schiller isn't one of the Bulldogs' top three or four offensive threats. Heck, he might not even be top five, but his tenacity and leadership will lead the Bulldogs deep into the postseason.

Mix that with seniors Drew Berg, Jesse Green and Zach Durr, who all three helped lead the football team this fall and you have one team full of heart and desire. Of course, throw in juniors Brandon Tommer and Clad Kueffer, and 6-foot-7 freshman Justin Vander Tuig to the mix, too.

They fell one game short of going to state last year. You know that has to be lingering in the back of their minds. Or better yet, the heart-breaking loss to Kansas City Piper last season in the sub-state final.

Let's not forget about those girls, though. They have one senior that compares to Schiller. Heather Garcia also has the ability to shut down point guards and can poke a steal loose from anyone. Oh yeah, Garcia also has incredible speed and quickness, which makes her one of the best defenders in the state.

Garcia is one of five seniors on the BHS squad. They have a tenacity that is hard to match. That has kept them in several games and aided them in winning a few contests.

One example would be their win on Saturday. Baldwin was outsized, as it is in every contest, but the Bulldogs' defensive pressure was the key component in their victory.

This girls' team will live and die with its defense, whether it be in the half court of full court. Their defense must create offensive opportunities and they have to capitalize on those chances.

The Bulldogs have the ability to be a good shooting team, but aggression with the ball has hindered them at times. In their last contest, the guards began to show signs of attacking the basket. They will need to continue that if they wish to make a run in the postseason.

However, if their offense becomes stagnate, they can always rely on their tenacity and quickness to shut down opponents.

Well, the final few weeks of the basketball season should be interesting. Both teams have tough challenges ahead of them as they battle Frontier League teams.

If they keep giving 100 percent effort and score a few buckets, they will do just fine. They know the community and their fellow students will be supporting them.

Jack Black's band "Tenacious D" might be the slogan for the Bulldogs' squads this year.

Go Bulldogs.

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