Archive for Thursday, March 11, 2010

Column: State drought extends to 13 years

Off the Rim column

March 11, 2010

Is the Baldwin High School girls’ basketball program cursed?

Two years ago, I wrote a column about the possibility of BHS coach Eric Toot being cursed. He’s had several successful teams during his tenure as girls’ and boys’ coach at BHS. Yet, no trips to state for the alumnus.

I might have a new answer to the curse theory. It’s now been 13 years since the BHS girls’ program has sent a team to Salina for the Class 4A State Tournament.

The Bulldogs finished runner-up that season, after winning the state championship in 1996. Longtime coach and teacher Ted Zuzzio was at the helm during those seasons.

Unfortunately, Zuzzio was relieved of his duties following the 1997 season. Rumors surrounded his exit and pointed in the direction of playing time for specific players. I tend to agree with the rumors, but may never know the truth. However, I wouldn’t compare this controversy with the John F. Kennedy assassination.

One thing’s for certain, Zuzzio was the last coach to lead the BHS girls’ team to state. He’s gone on to coach for Baldwin Junior High School and has produced many top-notch teams.

Is it safe to say the girls’ program is cursed by Zuzzio’s resignation (or termination)?

The Bulldogs were very talented during the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 seasons. As most of us know, Spring Hill was also talented and had Baldwin’s number during sub-state games.

Baldwin’s last trip to the sub-state championship was in 2006, which was the first year under coach Bob Martin. BHS lost to Iola 56-21, but in the Bulldogs’ defense, Iola went on to win the state title. Spring Hill, who knocked the Bulldogs out of the sub-state finals, also won the state title in 2003.

Four years ago was the last time the Bulldogs were close to qualifying for state. Since that time, they lost in the semifinals twice and the first round a year ago.

On Saturday night, Baldwin had a legitimate shot at ending its Salina drought. BHS entered sub-state as the No. 2 seed. Saint James was the No. 1 seed, but the Thunder stole a victory from Baldwin on Jan. 21.

The Bulldogs led 44-37 with 6:36 left in their home game, but failed to score during the rest of the game. Saint James won 50-44. Although they lost, I knew, along with the players, that Baldwin could win a possible rematch.

That chance never became a reality. Basehor-Linwood, who went to state in 2008, upset the Thunder last Thursday in the semifinals. So now, instead of playing a revenge game on a neutral court, the Bulldogs had to play the Bobcats, who were hosting the sub-state.

Saturday’s gymnasium was nearly packed for the girls’ contest. Baldwin handled the pressure of the situation and crowd early and led most of the first half. Freshman Kailyn Smith hit a huge three at the buzzer to cut Basehor’s lead to one point before halftime.

Smith converted a rare four-point play in the third quarter to tie the game. She hasn’t been a great shooter for much of the season, but she’s been a great point guard, especially as a freshman. She has impressed me and gotten better as the season progressed.

Her ball-handling skills and quickness make her a threat for years to come. On Saturday, her offense came alive. She hit two running jump shots in the lane and a pair of three-pointers. If she becomes a serious scoring threat next season, the Bulldogs could be dangerous.

Unfortunately for Baldwin, Smith was the only player to make a three-pointer. Normally reliable players for threes are senior Taylor Brown and junior Allison Howard. Senior Connor Twombly and junior Myranda Behrens will occasionally sink a long bomb, too. Those four players combined to shoot 0-for-13 from beyond the arc. The team shot 2-for-21 Saturday.

I sat there waiting for someone to make a three-pointer all game. I would have bet Super Bowl tickets that one of those four players would have sunk a three. In 23 games this season, they combined to make 59 threes. Saturday was the second contest where none of them made a three-pointer. No Bulldog made a three-pointer against Northern Heights on Feb. 2.

In my humble opinion, if Baldwin makes two more threes, the game comes down to the final shot. If BHS makes three or four more during the contest, I would have made the trip to Salina Wednesday.

If Baldwin and Basehor play a best-of-three series, I’d pick Baldwin to win the series. The Bulldog’s defense stifled the Bobcats for much of the contest. On offense, the law of averages would take over and Baldwin would beat the Bobcats’ zone.

However, ifs are simply that, ifs. The Bobcats won the contest. The Bulldogs’ players should be proud of their season. You girls made the town proud.

Maybe next year, the Bulldogs will return to Salina. Or is there really a curse?

Comments

Spiderpig 4 years, 9 months ago

So, If Zuzzio would have played Nuspl's daughter more he would still have his coaching job and the girls would still be going to state? hmmmmmm

Hey Berg, Toot, and Martin: What did the five fingers say to the face?...."SLAP"

From what I have seen, these 3 guys are every bit as good a coach as Zuzzio. This article would lead one to think that they are not.

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NanCrisp 4 years, 9 months ago

Most of the articles in this "news"paper are designed to lead one to think things that are not altogether true.

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Julie Craig 4 years, 9 months ago

Spiderpig - Do you have daughters that play or have played basketball for any of these coaches?

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Spiderpig 4 years, 9 months ago

Nope, not yet. Does that mean that they are bad coaches because they haven't coached my daughter? Or, are you going to tell me that I can not judge their coaching abilities if I haven't had a son/daughter go through their systems?

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Julie Craig 4 years, 9 months ago

I'm saying that you learn a lot about a coach by listening to what the players say about how they run practices, how decisions are made about playing time, how they decide which offense/defense to run, what they expect in the off season, etc.

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Spiderpig 4 years, 9 months ago

And what are the players saying about these guys?

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Torch 4 years, 9 months ago

Jimmy is right - our best chance to go to State was Emily Brown's Jr. and Sr. years. She was a once-in-a-generation athlete for a town the size of Baldwin. Spring Hill was awesome when they won in 2003. In 2004 the team just choked. There isn't a better way to describe it. We had an 8 point lead going into the fourth quarter and a team with SIX Seniors including Emily.

Result? Loss with Brown scoring 2 points.

This year's Sub-State was soft and the best chance we've had in a while. Oh well.

The Iola game? If I recall correctly they had one and maybe two Div I players on that team. I don't remember the name of our post - tall skinny girl - but there were FOUR on that Iola team just like her...didn't have a chance.

As far as what the kids say? I know they love Toot. Martin isn't exactly inspiring. Don't know about Berg.

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Julie Craig 4 years, 9 months ago

The players I talked to gave a split decision on who was their favorite coach, but... It was unanimous in favor of Zuzzio on the best coach to have in the clutch. He had his teams ready for games with a plan to change things up in different game scenarios.

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bulldog 4 years, 9 months ago

Why did Coach Zuzzio resign?

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Spiderpig 4 years, 9 months ago

You can have a split decision that is unanimous?

I heard he resigned to help build his dad's home. And, there was no talent coming back the next year.

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Julie Craig 4 years, 9 months ago

Never mind Spiderpig. A good coach doesn't always worry about making friends and making everyone feel all warm and fuzzy. They don't care if practice is "fun." A good coach earns the respect of the team and fans by winning with the deck he is dealt.

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Spiderpig 4 years, 9 months ago

And if you think Zuzzio is a good coach with these attributes and the other 3 guys aren't then you are drinking the kool-aid Jonestown.

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Julie Craig 4 years, 9 months ago

Hmmm. I thought we were talking about winning the tough games, and smart coaching. Spiderpig, High School varsity basketball is not rec league. I don't get what the Jonestown reference has to do with this conversation.

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