Salina Baldwin High opened defense of its Class 4A girls basketball state championship by holding off stubborn Andale, 62-51, Thursday in the state quarterfinals at the Bicentennial Center.
The Bulldogs broke open a close game midway through the second quarter, then held off a late Andale rally to improve to 23-1. Baldwin will play in a semifinal at 3 p.m. today against Topeka Hayden, a 39-21 victor over Osawatomie.
Baldwin, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, led 45-30 heading into the final quarter when the Indians came back. An 8-1 run in the middle of the quarter pulled Andale to 51-43 with 2:23 left.
"We relaxed a little bit in the fourth quarter," BHS coach Ted Zuzzio said. "I told them they can't do that. There's eight good teams here."
Andale continually fouled over the last three minutes in an attempt to crawl closer, but the Bulldogs made enough free throws to preserve the win.
For the first three quarter, Baldwin senior center Mary Denning was dominant. With no one on the Andale side able to force her out of the lane, Denning racked up 16 first-half points, and she had 22 by the end of the third quarter.
"I knew I had to step it up. I'm a senior," Denning said. "They were very quick for our guards to handle. I knew I was going to be counted on inside."
It was the Indians' perimeter game that kept them in it, and allowed them to get back in it late. Andale, which has five related players with the last name Eck, got 18 points from sophomore guard Maggie Eck and 16 points from sophomore guard Missi Eck.
"We lost track of their perimeter shooters a couple of times, and they toasted us up," Zuzzio said.
Andale actually led 16-14 after one quarter before Baldwin took charge. Bulldog senior forward Audrey Millstein scored the first seven points of the quarter. Her three-point play on a foul by Andale forward Betsy Eck gave the Bulldogs a 21-18 lead with 6:22 left in the half. It was a lead they would never relinquish.
The lower score and slower tempo of the second half were largely brought on by the Bulldogs' foul trouble. Both Millstein and senior guard Trina Bierman were plagued by fouls, and both fouled out in the fourth quarter.
"When we got up, we slacked off a little bit," Denning said. "A lot of our fouls were because we were a step late."
Denning finished with 26 points to lead all scorers. Junior forward Courtney Stultz led the Bulldogs with 12 rebounds, and she made five of six free throws late.
"Courtney Stultz came up big for us," Zuzzio said. "There's a lot of talk about our seniors, but she's also something special for us."
Denning said the team's mindset at this year's state tournament is completely different from a year ago.
"There's definitely more pressure this time," Denning said. "Last year, we were just amazed to be in the semifinals. Now we're expected to win, and if we don't, it'll be a letdown."
Baldwin 62, Andale 51
Emmy Horsch 0-0 0-0 0, Betsy Eck 2-3 1-3 5, Julie Eck 2-2 0-0 4, Christine Gorges 0-0 1-2 1, Stacey Eck 3-7 0-0 7, Maggie Eck 7-17 2-4 18, Missi Eck 4-18 6-8 16, Jenny Kampling 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-47 10-17 51.
Trina Bierman 0-0 3-4 3, Audrey Millstein 7-12 2-6 16, Stacy Zuzzio 0-3 1-2 1, Ann Martin 1-5 5-10 7, Johnelle Nuspl 0-2 0-0 0, Lisa Piepergerdes 0-0 0-0 0, Wylie Taul 0-1 0-0 0, Courtney Stultz 2-3 5-6 9, Mary Denning 12-17 2-2 26. Totals 22-43 18-30 62.
Andale 16 9 5 21 -- 51
Baldwin 14 17 14 17 -- 62
Three-point field goals -- Andale 5-15 (S. Eck 1-2, Maggie Eck 2-6, Missi Eck 2-7), Baldwin 0-8 (Millstein 0-2, Zuzzio 0-2, Martin 0-3, Nuspl 0-1). Rebounds -- Baldwin 44 (Stultz 12), Andale 25 (Maggie Eck 6). Assists -- Baldwin 11 (Stultz 4), Andale 10 (Missi Eck 4). Turnovers -- Baldwin 14, Andale 12. Total fouls -- Andale 20, Baldwin 18.