BHS winter coaches pleased with seasons
Now that the winter sports' season has passed by, it was time for some reflecting by the trio of head coaches at Baldwin High School.
Despite - what they viewed as - a lack of postseason success this winter, all three coaches are trying to not let that overshadow their success during the regular season.
"We are still in that phase right now of trying to be happy with what we did achieve," BHS wrestling coach Kit Harris said. "We had our sights set so high and you have to think like that to finish really high. The higher you strive, the more you risk. Thinking like that helps you finish up there close, but when it's all said and done, you have to be able to realize there is a lot to be proud of."
Eric Toot coached the BHS boys' basketball team to 17-5 record during his second season as coach. Along the way, the Bulldogs won their second straight Baldwin Invitational Tournament title and extended their home winning streak to 19 games.
During their nine home wins, the Bulldogs' average margin of victory was 16.33 points, which is slightly skewed by their 56 point win over Ottawa Christian during the BIT.
"We had a great regular season," Toot said. "We strengthened our schedule and still finished 16-4 in the regular season. We won a lot of close games, but the last one just didn't fall our way."
The BHS boys drew the No. 1 seed in their sub-state this winter. After a nail-biting win over De Soto, the Bulldogs were knocked off by Bishop Ward. The Cyclones sank a three-pointer as time expired to win 47-45 on Feb. 29.
That buzzer beater crushed the Bulldogs' hopes of making a run to the Class 4A state tournament. Toot said the loss was tough, but he hopes this season's success has built a foundation for the future.
"I am very happy with the direction this program is going," Toot said. "We had a heart-breaking end to our season, but that shouldn't take away from our regular season. We want to be an established program every year, not just good from time to time. I think we're headed in that direction."
Another BHS program that is trying to become a traditional power in 4A is the wrestling team. After a record-tying seventh place team finish at state in 2007, the Bulldogs finished 10th this season.
Harris is confident his team is heading in the direction of becoming a traditional high-placing team at the state meet. But, he still knows there is some work to do.
"There is a lot to be proud of with that," Harris said. "These are traditions that Baldwin High hasn't had and we are starting to make it a yearly tradition, which is good. Very few teams actually get to the top, but we have to think that way to get there."
The BHS wrestling team sent six competitors to the state meet this year. Three of those Bulldogs placed in the top six, including senior Kevin Callahan, who captured his first-ever state championship.
Baldwin finished runner-up at the Frontier League meet for the third straight year. BHS also placed fourth at its 4A regional and finished in the top three at several of its tournaments this season.
"We had all kinds of success stories throughout the year," Harris said. "Our line up was kind of unique in that one-third of our guys were high-level wrestlers ranked in the state, another one- third were guys that started wrestling in high school and were striving to be state qualifiers and the other one-third were first-year varsity guys that improved and gained varsity experience."
Heading into this season, the BHS girls' basketball players knew their team would have a size disadvantage against nearly every opponent. The tallest player on the BHS roster was 5-foot-9 freshman Ramie Burkhart. Senior Ashley Tucker and junior Clare Miles were both listed at 5-8.
To reconcile for its size, the BHS girls' team used pressure defense and quickness to its advantage. The Bulldogs averaged nearly 14 steals per game this season.
"I thought we competed really well this season, considering we were on the small side and had to fight everyone on the boards," Martin said. "We were in about every game we played and a lot of games that could have gone either way. I was happy with the season."
Despite not having a true post player with any size, the Bulldogs finished 10-11 on the season. Six of those losses were by three points or less, including the final game, which was a 40-39 loss in the first round of sub-state.
"They are really competitive and they fought awful hard," Martin said. "Overcoming a size disadvantage is difficult to do, but they did everything they could to overcome that. Our defense was good just about every night."
All three BHS teams will be trying to replace senior classes that have left a legacy in their programs. Five of the state wrestlers were seniors and three of them are on the program's top 10 list in all-time victories. Those three are Callahan, Nick Rockhold and Gabe Mason.
Harris knows next year will be different than this one, but he is staying optimistic about his younger wrestlers' ability to improve and work hard.
"We lose a great senior class and we only return three points from this state tournament," Harris said. "We will be ranked low in the preseason. We have some guys that have been to state before and we have some other guys who are ready to step up and qualify for state. We will have more tournament placers each week, but we are losing the big guns."
Toot and Martin are also losing seniors that not only led the team in points, rebounds or assists, but led with their leadership. The girls' team loses Callie Craig, Colby Heckathorne, Courtney Harris, Heather Garcia and Tucker.
"We have a lot of younger girls that played a lot," Martin said. "I was really happy in the sub-state game that some of our underclassmen came through and played a lot. They are all going to be big contributors for us next year."
The BHS boys' team will be without senior Drew Berg, Zach Durr, Jesse Green and Dustin Schiller next year. Toot said he will be looking to younger players to improve during the offseason and be ready to play varsity next year.
"We have a good core coming back, but our depth will be the key," Toot said. "Some of our younger guys who didn't play much varsity will have to step up next year and help us out. If we work hard in the offseason, we will continue to get better and improve."