Streaky Baldwin takes down Towanda-Circle in state opener

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Baldwin head boys basketball coach Don Blanchat looks on during a game against Bishop Seabury on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, at Baldwin High School.

The Baldwin boys basketball team took advantage of a second straight trip to the 4A state playoffs and redeemed itself after last year’s overtime loss to rival Eudora.

This time around, the fifth-seeded Bulldogs took on No. 4 Towanda-Circle on Thursday evening and used runs of 10 and nine straight points on either side of halftime to down the Thunderbirds, 63-53, at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina.

Baldwin’s (20-3) leading scorer, sophomore Cooper Carr, scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half while shooting 12-for-13 overall at the free-throw line and adding eight rebounds and four steals. Leo Schoenberger tallied 11 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, and Joey Ziembicki scored 14 points.

Circle (20-3), which shot just 7-for-28 from deep, was led by Landon Boldra (15 points), Camden Beahm (14) and Ethan Koehn (11).

Talan Torrez hit a 3-pointer on the Bulldogs’ first possession of the evening, and Schoenberger burrowed his way in for a putback as Baldwin jumped out to a 7-0 lead and forced a timeout by Circle. But its offense cooled off quickly against the Thunderbirds’ zone, and Circle ate away at the deficit, reducing it all the way to one point on a three-point play by Beahm late in the first quarter.

The Thunderbirds then promptly took the lead to open the second period on a runner by Boldra in what rapidly became a back-and-forth game.

With Baldwin trailing 21-19, though, Carr forced what proved to be a very important turnover on what looked like an easy fast break for Circle. It led to a bucket for Schoenberger at the other end and in the process kicked off a 10-0 run for the Bulldogs (featuring three Thunderbirds turnovers in total). Baldwin eventually held a 32-25 advantage heading into the break after shooting 50%, including 5-for-10 from beyond the arc, with eight points apiece from Schoenberger and Ziembicki.

It was Carr, however, who scored seven quick points as Baldwin doubled that margin after halftime. By the time four minutes had elapsed in the third quarter he had increased his points total on the night from four to 13. Circle held the Bulldogs scoreless for the remainder of the period but only made one field goal of its own, a contested shot inside by Conner Chadwell, and went into the fourth down 46-34.

Chadwell had a chance to bring it back to single digits in transition with 5:47 to go but got called for traveling trying to dodge a Baldwin defender. That was just one obstacle in a challenging quarter for the Thunderbirds as they did not score for a stretch of two minutes and 38 seconds. Carr made a series of free throws to put distance between his team and Circle, despite some intrigue as Beahm (twice) and Boldra hit late 3s.

The Bulldogs will face unbeaten top-seeded McPherson Friday at 4 p.m. McPherson beat Fort Scott 61-48 earlier on Thursday afternoon.

Box score


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