Column: Bulldogs, Broncos rivalry renewed in Top Gun title game
For one night, the Baldwin High-Spring Hill girls’ basketball rivalry took a trip down memory lane.
It’s been since 2003 or 2004 since both squads have been capable of playing to the high level they did Saturday night during the Top Gun championship. During the 2003 and 2004 seasons, they were two of the state’s best teams.
They’ve played every year since those epic sub-state contests where Baldwin fell one step short of the state tournament. I’ve been at those games, including the legendary ones from the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Each game was hard fought, but Saturday’s contest proved they might be two of the state’s best teams in 2011.
I’m sure the stats don’t reflect the quality of the game. Both teams turned the ball over and missed shots, but the effort and desire to win could be felt in the stands. Baldwin was out to win a tournament championship and avenge a 24-point home defeat, while the Broncos were hungry to win their second-straight Top Gun title and knock off the Bulldogs again.
For three-and-a-half quarters, both teams pushed the tempo and exchanged baskets. It had the feeling of an epic sub-state title game and unfortunately for Baldwin, it ended like those heart-breaking losses.
The Bulldogs’ three-point lead with 0:52 dwindled down the stretch. They turned the ball over three times during the final 0:35 and fouled the Broncos’ best player three times. She knocked down six free throws to win the game.
Despite facing a three-point deficit with 0:06.2 remaining, the Bulldogs had a chance to force overtime. A three-pointer by Allison Howard missed at the buzzer, but she was fouled, giving her a chance to tie the game with a trio of difficult foul shots in a noisy gym.
My heart sunk for Howard as she stood alone at the charity stripe and the first shot rattled around and fell out of the rim. This was just moments after she was called for a traveling violation on the Bulldogs’ previous possession.
Howard put every ounce of effort into the game and led the Bulldogs in scoring. After the game, you could see on her face that she felt terrible, but she has no reason to hang her head.
Her scoring and effort during the previous 32 minutes allowed Baldwin to have a chance to win. She also wasn’t the only Bulldog to turn the ball over during the final minute.
To top it off, she had to stand alone at the foul line and sink three-straight shots with the Spring Hill fans standing and yelling 30 feet away. I’ve seen NCAA Division 1 basketball players miss clutch free throws in huge games.
Would she have felt better or worse if she made the first two and missed the last one?
Howard tried her hardest, and I know the loss upset her. She will have one, possibly two more times to play and defeat the Broncos. The final contest could be in sub-state at Spring Hill.
I couldn't think of a better way to get revenge than making the game-winning shot or free throws to beat the Broncos on their home court and give Baldwin its first state-berth since 1997.
It’s about time the Bulldogs paid the Broncos back for those painful losses — just ask any former BHS players.