Vander Tuig nearly carries BHS boys to BIT title
Justin Vander Tuig almost saved the day twice in a row last week.
On Friday night, the Baldwin High School sophomore sank the winning shot for his Bulldog boys’ basketball team. That basket helped advance the Bulldogs into the Baldwin Invitational Tournament championship for the third straight year.
Vander Tuig’s game-high 24 points on Saturday was half of the Bulldogs’ team points. With three seconds remaining in the contest, Vander Tuig was fouled attempting the game-tying shot. He sank the first free throw before the Kansas City Christian coach called a timeout.
“Justin’s playing great and the kids are doing a great job of getting him the basketball,” coach Eric Toot said. “We’re a very unselfish basketball team and we aren’t worried about who scores.”
The next foul shot bounced off the rim to the left. The Panthers’ Terrance Pratt rebounded the ball and was immediately fouled. He also sank the first of two free throws.
BHS junior Zach Wright grabbed the rebound with 2.3 seconds remaining. He tossed up a halfcourt shot that headed directly toward the basket. The shot was a few inches too long as it bounced hard off the back of the rim, ending the game. KC Christian defeated the Bulldogs 50-48.
“I don’t think it was a very positive game for us,” Toot said. “I thought we lacked a little intensity tonight, which really surprised me for a championship game. I don’t think we had the focus that we had on Friday night against Perry, especially defensively. Give them credit, because they have some good guards that really broke us down off the dribble.”
Early in the second quarter, the Panthers built their lead to nine points off a banked three-point basket. Baldwin then went on a 16-5 run to end the quarter, led by 10 points from Tommer.
“We made a nice run in the third,” Toot said. “We were thinking about going to a zone defense, but they shoot the ball well and I thought they might just hold the ball on us. I didn’t want to get into that situation. We just have to get better in our man defense. We’ve just struggled against quick guards this year.”
Neither team led by more than two points during the final quarter as the teams exchanged leads three times. Two of the Panthers’ final three baskets were three-pointers.
“They really hurt us defensively,” Toot said. “I know they only scored 50, but that was mainly because of the pace of the game. We just have to do a better job of being focused for 32 minutes on the defensive end.”
On Friday, the Bulldogs advanced to the final with a victory over Perry-Lecompton. It came down to the final minute once again as Vander Tuig led BHS to a 41-38 win.
Vander Tuig scored five of the Bulldog’s final seven points. He led the team with 16 points in the contest.
“It was a physical game and they have a lot more height and size than most teams, so it was a battle,” Vander Tuig said. “It’s fun to go against people as tall as you sometimes, although he had a few pounds on me.”
With the game tied at 36-36, Perry’s 6-foot-9 Andy Bowman fouled out. He joined 6-5 Joel Gantz on the bench, opening up some space for Vander Tuig to work inside.
Baldwin’s Clad Kueffer sank both free throws to give BHS a two-point lead. The Kaws’ Shane Gimzo answered back with a basket to tie the game with 33 seconds left.
On the Bulldogs’ next possession, they fed Vander Tuig, who kissed the two-foot shot off the glass. After a Kaws’ miss, Vander Tuig was fouled. He sank one of the free throws to give BHS a three-point advantage. A last-second shot fell short by the Kaws.
“I was just trying to put the ball in the hole at the end of the game and it worked out,” Vander Tuig said. “There was a little bit of pressure on those free throws. You always want to get the lead to three, if not more than that. It was nice to hit the second one.”
This year marked the first time in school history the Bulldogs have been in the title game three consecutive years for their home tournament. This was also the first BIT championship for KC Christian.