No love lost between Baldwin, Eudora in narrow Valentine’s Day victory
The Baldwin Bulldogs entered their Valentine's Day date with the Eudora Cardinals (11-4) with a 5-12 record. But that didn't matter, when these two rivals met.
The four Cardinal senior starters Andrew Bell, David Grote, Tyler Jackson and Kaleb Niedens had motivation of their own -- avenging the Cardinals 55-54 road loss to Baldwin last year.
The rivalry game provided a stage for Eudora's Kaleb Niedens, who led the Cardinals with 18, and Baldwin speedster Andy Hannon, who led all scorers with 21.
In a game of runs and lead changes, Hannon and Niedens both established themselves early. Hannon took the early advantage by sparking a 5-0 Baldwin run with a deep three-pointer, giving the Bulldogs an early 7-4 lead. Niedens responded by finishing off a 7-0 Cardinal run with a three-pointer of his own, followed by a baseline jumper for the Cardinals 11-7 lead. Niedens went on to score 10 of his team's first 16 points.
One of the most critical came for the Cardinals in the closing moments of the first half. Junior Tyler Cleveland connected on a three-pointer with less than a minute to play. Cleveland's basket snapped a 9-0 Baldwin run. On the subsequent Cardinal possession junior Josh Brouhard tipped in a Cleveland miss, bringing Eudora to within one at the break, 24-23.
The usual suspects made early noise in the second half. Hannon had a steal in the open court and took the distance for the layup and the foul, giving Baldwin its biggest lead of the second half 31-27. As he had been doing all game, Niedens responded, draining his third of four threes on the night.
Hannon's quickness turned the third period into a track meet. The Cardinals seemed to have no one capable of controlling Baldwin's penetration.
Hannon, who scored nine points in the third period, started the fourth with another hard penetrating drive, giving Baldwin a 42-40 advantage. The lead was Baldwin's last of the game.
With flare for the dramatic, Niedens answered Hannon's drive with another long three-pointer, his only points of the fourth period, putting the Cardinals up for good.
Hannon's drives and Niedens' marksmanship were what the near capacity crowd expected to see. The fans did not expect to see -- with 5:50 to play in the game -- Eudora head coach Scott Stein bring in 6-foot-3 junior Jesse Montgomery to guard Hannon, Baldwin's biggest weapon.
"I had just played three quarters in the junior varsity game and was really surprised when I had to guard their best player," Montgomery said.
Stein's coaching and Montgomery's poise paid off immediately.
Hannon quickly attacked Montgomery along the baseline. Initially, it appeared Hannon had a step on the Eudora junior. Montgomery's long arms made up the difference, and he rejected Hannon's attempt. The Bulldogs maintained possession of the basketball, and Hannon would again test Montgomery off the dribble and again Montgomery rejected the attempt.
On the Bulldogs next two possessions, Hannon appeared rattled and abandoned any attempts to drive on Montgomery. Instead Hannon settled for two quick unsuccessful three-point attempts.
When Montgomery scored his only basket of the game on the other end with 2:51 to play he capped a Cardinal 8-0 run and established a 49-42 lead. Stein rewarded Montgomery with a quick breather on the bench. Hannon, however, didn't rest and resumed attacking the basket scoring on a tough drive through the lane; Montgomery's rest was over.
Cleveland answered with a drive of his own. Baldwin would be forced to start fouling and test the Cardinals' free throw shooting and mental toughness. Cleveland was up to the task, connecting on all four of his free throw attempts. Cleveland scored six of his 11 points in the final two minutes of the game.
When Montgomery pulled down a big rebound with 9.2 seconds remaining he brought the fans to their feet and the house down.
"I was just in the right place at the right time," Montgomery said, responding to his game-clinching rebound.
The Cardinals enjoyed solid production in addition to the 31 points by Niedens, Cleveland, and Montgomery. Junior Chris Gabriel had 13 points, Brouhard finished with six points, Jackson had four points, and Grote added a pair on the night he surrendered his Winter Sports crown.
Montgomery summed up the feeling saying, "I feel like I could go climb a mountain right now."
Eudora's match up Tuesday at Spring Hill was its first since an emotional victory over Baldwin Feb. 14. The Cardinals, however, were motionless and emotionless as they fell to the Broncos 66-40.
"I don't think we left Douglas County tonight," remarked a disappointed Eudora head coach Scott Stein. "We did not play good defense. We did not keep them off the boards. That was really not very good basketball."
Eudora's lethargic effort came against a Spring Hill team that was the 4A State runner-up a year ago. Spring Hill was led by 6-foot-5 senior center Richard Hannah. Hannah finished with a game-high 24 points.
Hannah actually outscored the Cardinals 14-12 in the first half. Eudora trailed 36-12 at the break.
Eudora's Kaleb Niedens failed to get on track early, missing his first six shots. He didn't score until connecting on a mid-range jump shot with under six minutes to play in the game.
Spring Hill outscored Eudora 30-28 in the second half as the Cardinals showed some signs of life. Niedens and junior Josh Brouhard combined for all of the team's 12 points in the fourth period. The Cardinals closed the game on a positive 7-0 run.
Junior guard Tyler Cleveland led the Cardinals with nine points. Niedens finished with seven. Chris Gabriel and Andrew Bell had six each, Brouhard with five, David Grote and Tyler Jackson added three apiece, and Jesse Montgomery rounded out the scoring with one point.