The Bulldogs' boys basketball team made a comeback during the second half, but it wasn't enough to beat Gardner High School.
Once Baldwin High School's boys heard the "alarm clock" go off Friday night, they responded. However, the wake-up call came too late as BHS dropped its second straight nail-biter, this time 52-51 to Gardner.
"When you take kids out of their schedule, something goes wrong," said head coach Bobby Taul in reference to the team not having school Friday. "Since they didn't have to get up to go to school, it was like the alarm clock didn't go off until later."
Still in a snooze, the Bulldogs fell behind in the first half. They trailed 14-8 after the first quarter and 33-21 at halftime. Gardner pushed that margin to 15 in the third quarter.
"In the first half we didn't do what we were supposed to do and in the second half we did," said Taul. "You've got to play four quarters. You can't play two. In the first half we just walked around, went through the motions and didn't seem to be awake."
There wasn't any sleeping in the fourth quarter. BHS's rally had the big "spirit night" crowd on its feet and screaming -- especially the "Dog Pound" student section.
The Bulldogs began their comeback midway through the third quarter. The physical game took its biggest tumble with about two minutes left when BHS' Bryan Williams and Gardner's Jeff Strack went to the floor after a loose ball. Strack threw Williams across the floor and referees had to restrain the pair. Both were ejected and Strack added an extra technical foul to the cause.
BHS' Adam Wessel canned both of the resulting free throws, which sent the Bulldogs on a 9-2 run to end the third frame and open the fourth. When Andy Meinen horsed in an inside shot with 6:32 left in the game to cap the surge, the game was tied at 41.
It remained close, with Gardner taking a three-point lead with 2:27 left. Baldwin countered with senior Kurt Everett's three-pointer to retie the score and send the Dog Pound howling.
Twenty seconds later, Wessel was at the line again and downed a pair to put Baldwin up 50-48 with 1:31 left. Sam McCall added another free throw a minute later for a three-point edge.
But Gardner wasn't done. The Trailblazers converted a pair of free throws to pull within one and then made a steal with 19 seconds left. After a shot from the top of the key fell to give Gardner the lead with just 12 seconds left, Baldwin had one last try. However, the shot fell short of the mark, as did the come-back effort.
"We were down 15 points in the third quarter and we came back to be in it in the end," said Taul. "We had a good look at the basket at the end, we just didn't get it. But, if we would have hit some free throws we wouldn't have been in that position. If we hit some free throws down the stretch, we win it."
Baldwin only hit five of 10 from the line in the last quarter and only 20 of 33 (60 percent) for the game. The loss dropped BHS' record to 4-4 after a 4-0 start. That includes a double-overtime loss to Ottawa that preceded Friday's contest.
"You're not going to win very many games hitting 50 percent down the stretch," he said.
Taul is also hopeful that this year's team follows the pattern set last year as it heads into this week's Baldwin Invitational .
"Hopefully our magic will return at tournament time," he said. "That's what happened last year. We started playing good at the tournament and maybe that same magic will return."
In Friday's game, Meinen led the scoring with 10 points, Wessel added nine and Everett eight. Wessel was seven for 11 from the line, had three assists and three rebounds. For his efforts, he was named player of the week.
The BHS junior varsity also lost a nail-biter to Gardner, 35-32. Luke Tutschulte was the leading scorer with six points. The Bulldog freshmen avoided the sweep, taking a 51-43 victory from the Trailblazers. Hugh Murphy topped the scoring with 17 points. Murphy was named player of the week for the freshmen by scoring 39 points in three games.