When basketball practice starts in eight months, Baldwin High girls coach Ted Zuzzio will notice a void.
The Bulldogs -- led by four seniors -- finished the 1996-97 season with a school-best 24-2 record and placed second at the Class 4A state championship last weekend, losing to Sabetha in the finals, 44-37.
"The hardest part of losing a state championship was not losing the game, but saying goodbye to all four of my seniors," said Zuzzio, named Journal-World girls coach of the year for the second straight season.
Zuzzio's four seniors -- Trina Bierman, Mary Denning, Ann Martin, and Audrey Millstein -- were a winning class. Denning, Martin and Millstein were four-year starters and Bierman was a three-year starter. Baldwin's record the past four years was 74-22, including four Frontier League titles, a Class 4A state championship and second-place finish at state.
Baldwin scored a school record 1,509 points and the seniors accounted for 83 percent of that total. Other school records set this season were field goals made (625), three-pointers made (69), field-goal percentage (45.5 percent), free-throw percentage (64.8 percent), steals (403) and assists (485).
The Bulldogs went 8-0 in the Frontier League to claim its fifth consecutive league crown -- third straight with an perfect record.
"You fall in love with kids who want to work, listen and give you 100 percent effort," Zuzzio said.
Zuzzio, 45, is a Pittsburg State graduate and industrial arts teacher at Baldwin.
Baldwin has been Zuzzio's only coaching stop. He has a 332-116 record in 20 seasons, including nine trips to the state tournament and state crowns in 1982 and '96.
"It's been a quick 20," Zuzzio said. "The nine trips to state broke it up. My initial goal was 10 and I've made it 20. I've had a lot of wonderful kids."
It appears the cupboard won't be bare next season. Baldwin's freshmen and junior varsity teams both went 19-1.
"We've got things rolling," Zuzzio said. "I've got two great assistants in Mike Berg and Mike Curran."
Curran has been with Zuzzio for 10 years and Berg has assisted for three years.
"It's a joy coaching when you have great kids to work with and two quality assitants," Zuzzio said. "I've also had some really good luck."