Column: State drought extends to 13 years
Off the Rim column
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?