Baldwin boys take rubber match from Louisburg
Louisburg — The Baldwin boys played a near-perfect first quarter, building a double-digit lead they never relinquished Tuesday on the way to a 68-50 Frontier League victory.
“That was fun,” Baldwin coach Dustin Leochner said of the first quarter. “You could see the guys were out there having fun.”
It was the third time the two teams met this year, with Louisburg winning in the finals of the Bulldog/Wildcat Classic in December and Baldwin prevailing in the first league matchup in January.
In the rubber game, the Bulldogs scored the game’s first seven point, led by as much as 14 points in the quarter before ending the period with a 24-11 lead. Baldwin effectively used a full-court press to turnover the Wildcats, which it turned into easy baskets.
Leochner said the team in the last week has been working to improve its full-court pressure by better covering opponents at mid-court and the backline once a team clears out for its ball handlers.
“We’ve been working on it, but it was good to see them execute it,” Leochner said.
It wasn’t only the press that was working for the Bulldogs in the first quarter. The team moved the ball as well as it has all season, which resulted in multiple open looks.
Benefitting from the press and the ball movement was junior forward Michael Burton, who scored a season-high 16 points to share the team’s game scoring honors with fellow junior Luke Fursman.
Louisburg made a comeback in the second quarter behind the 3-point shooting of sophomore E.R. Steffey, who connected on four shots from behind the arch and scored 16 points in the second quarter.
“We were supposed to clamp down on him from the get-go,” Leochner said. “He scored 16 points against us in the first two games.”
The Bulldogs adjusted at half, stifling Steffey to one point in the second half. Leochner said also talked to the team at half about not letting a struggling Louisburg team stay close and gain confidence.
Baldwin responded by re-asserting itself in the third quarter, outscoring Louisburg 20-7 in the period and ending any doubt about the game’s outcome.
The win improved Baldwin’s record to 13-5 and 6-3 in the Frontier League. The Bulldogs will face the league’s best Friday when Ottawa visits with its undefeated record and Duke University signee Semi Ojeleye.
“There may never be another player like him in the Frontier League,” Loechner said. “I told the team it was a chance to do something very special.”
It will also be senior night and the last home game for seniors Caleb Gaylord and Clay Thomas. Leochner said the senior night crowd and the many Ottawa fans who will make the short drive to Baldwin will make for a packed house and rowdy atmosphere.