Three listless quarters cost Baldwin in sub-state opener
The Baldwin boys found Monday one quarter of inspired ball wasn’t enough to overcome three quarters of listless play.
Louisburg weathered Baldwin’s frenetic fourth-quarter comeback to upset the second-seeded Bulldogs, 39-37, in the first round of the 4A sub-sate tournament. The loss ended Baldwin season with a record of 13-7.
The Bulldogs struggled to get anything going offensively in the game, scoring only four points in the second quarter and knocking down a mere three field goals in the first half. Saying Louisburg wanted the game more, Baldwin coach Dustin Leonchner noted the Wildcats won most 50-50 balls and claimed offensive and defensive rebounds.
“It was two of the worst quarters we’ve played all year,” he said of his team’s first and second quarter. “We were decisively out rebounded. We had passes slip through our hands and bounce off our chests. We didn’t execute. We didn’t set screens or execute things we’ve ran all year.”
Leochner called his team’s play “inexplicable,” noting the 10 turnovers it had in the first half led to Louisburg fast-break baskets while the Bulldogs were unrewarded for the nine turnovers it forced.
The visiting Wildcats began to break away from the lethargic Bulldogs midway through the first quarter, scoring the last five points of the period. Louisburg would continue to build in that lead through the next two quarters, enjoying its largest lead at 37-17 with 48 seconds to play in the third quarter.
To that point, Baldwin’s lack of offensive prevented the team from getting into its full-court press. That changed in the fourth quarter, when Baldwin scored on its first possession, butting Louisburg’s lead to 37-21.
After a basket from sophomore center Christian Gaylord, junior Luke Fursman scored off a steal. The Bulldogs then forced a five-second call on the next possession before Gaylord scored again, cutting Baldwin’s deficit to 27-27 with 5:36 to play.
With the gym suddenly rocking, the Bulldogs’ run continued with two free throws from junior Quinn Twombly and baskets from Michael Burton, Gaylord and Chad Berg. The last score brought the Bulldogs back to within two at 35-37 with a minute to play.
Another steal gave Baldwin possession with the chance to tie the game with 41 seconds to play. The Bulldogs took advantage when Gaylord scored off an offensive rebound with half a minute on the clock.
Louisburg kept its composure, with guard Corbin Wertz finding junior Wyatt Sander for the winning shot from the left corner with 2.1 seconds remaining.
Baldwin’s last chance to keep its season alive ended when Fursman’s 40-foot shot rolled over the front of the rim after bouncing off the backboard.
“It was a pretty incredible comeback,” Leoncher said. “But one quarter doesn’t make up for the lack of energy in the first three quarters.”
As he credited Louisburg for its focus, Leoncher remained at a loss for the Bulldogs’ lethargic play, noting it was the second-straight year Baldwin had lost in sub-state to a lower-seeded team it had recently easily defeated.
“I clearly need to get better at getting these guys ready to play in the first round of sub-state,” he said. “I’ll be spending the off-season trying to find ways we can get that done.”
Despite the disappointing loss, Leochner was proud of what his team accomplished during a season of adversity.
“With the injuries and illness, it was a pretty eventful year,” he said. “They were a great group of kids to coach. They came to practice everyday ready to work.”
Louisburg 39. Baldwin 37
Baldwin (13-7) 7 4 8 18 – 37
Louisburg (6-14) 12 9 16 2 – 39
Louisburg: Patrick Storey 4, E.R. Steffy 10, Garrett Lesher 1, John Stambaugh 2, Corbin Wertz 6, Wyatt Sander 7, Messa Ribordy 9
Baldwin: Tim Craig 2, Chad Berg 5, Luke Fursman 6, Michael Burton 4, Quinn Twombly 5, Christain Gaylord 15