Boys just short in crushing overtime loss to Baldwin
The De Soto boys basketball team lost. A last second half-court attempt flew harmlessly wide. De Soto coach Jim Bonar stared down at the Baldwin gymnasium floor, shook his head, clapped his hands and with a grimace, stood.
His team took the game's end much worse. Those coming off the court walked slowly to join the line set to yet again congratulate a different group of players on a victory. The beaten and bruised Wildcats went through the line in the way they'd become so accustomed -- on the wrong end of happy slaps and hearty handshakes.
For the 15th time this season the Cats wallowed to the locker room as a losing bunch of players, and slowly, one-by-one, they ambled back out, their spirits still as low as the basement locker room to which they'd been assigned.
It looked no different than it had in any of the losses that make up the team's current skid -- now at three games -- and it looked no different than it had in any of the eight-consecutive losses that preceded the current streak.
Somehow, it was different, however. Amidst one of the worst seasons in the program's history, the boys team again came up short, but despite the dejection afterward there was nothing the same. De Soto lost in overtime, falling at Baldwin 54-53.
Wildcat sophomore Tommy Elmer banked a running shot in the lane home with 14 seconds remaining in overtime to give De Soto a lead, but Baldwin's Drew Berg responded with 2.5 seconds left, securing the win.
"If we play like that all year long, we're sitting at seven, eight or nine wins just like everyone else," Bonar said moments after climbing from the locker room. "We put a good product on the floor and it could have gone either way.
"Overall, I couldn't be prouder of what those guys did."
De Soto has played good basketball through stretches of the season. Those stretches rarely have lasted longer than two quarters and by no means should any of Friday's 81-38 loss at Louisburg be considered.
The Cats strung it together Tuesday at Baldwin, however. For much of the game it all seemed to work.
Junior guard Andre Linzy played his best game in weeks, leading with 22 points and setting the Wildcats on fire with a thrilling fast-break dunk. Brendon Hudson lit up the hoop from 3-point range, scoring six. Erik Hill bickered and fought for his eight points and played with the same tenacity he has all season. Elmer also hit two big 3-pointers in taking advantage of his first career start, and had the nearly-a-winner basket in overtime. He finished with 10.
Linzy scored De Soto's first five points of the game, then made it seven and gave De Soto its first lead with the dunk, setting the Cats up at 7-6.
De Soto still led after one quarter, 15-13, and pushed the lead to five, 25-20, when Elmer hit a 3-pointer as time expired in the second quarter, sending the Cats to the locker room amid a hail of whoops, cheers and chest-bumps.
"The past couple of games we came out flat, but tonight we came out fired up and with the attitude we needed to prove something," Hudson said. "Normally we'll play two really nice quarters a game, but those other ones kill us.
"I knew we had this in us. Looking around the locker room, you could tell people were pumped up and ready."
The Cats pushed the lead to 10 in the third quarter, then answered a Baldwin rally -- the Bulldogs had a 12-2 run to tie it at 36 -- with seven more points, opening up a 47-40 lead with four minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the game.
"It was a good, good ballgame," Bonar said. "The intensity level, the caring and the emotion was great. It shows the resiliency of the boys."
An Andrew Madl score with 24 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter tied the game and seemed to recapture Baldwin all the momentum. Linzy fouled out early in overtime, and Hill followed him to the bench two minutes later.
De Soto junior Travis Crow scored after grabbing an offensive rebound to tie the game again at 51. Baldwin made one free throw for a one-point advantage with 35 seconds remaining, setting up Elmer's lead-grabbing drive to the bucket.
He cut across the lane and leaned around Baldwin's Berg, kissing the ball off the glass and straight through the hoop.
"I drove in and saw (Berg) was committing to the outside, so I pump faked," Elmer said. "He went out and I faded away and banked it. I've taken that shot a lot, so I was pretty confident in it."
Baldwin had little trouble scoring the winning basket, but even that was tense enough to stop the heart. Berg caught the ball in the paint and turned to face the hoop. He put up a shot with little interference, but it bounced on the rim, then off the backboard before holding on the outside rim for what felt like a decade.
Finally it, and De Soto, fell.
"We're a lot better than our record shows," Hudson said. "We're still having fun. It's still a lot of fun playing with all these guys."
De Soto played again Wednesday night in a weather-delayed game against Wellsville. Results were not available at press time. The Cats host Anderson County Friday in the final home game of the season before sub-state action begins next week.
The Wildcats play at top-seed Kansas-City Piper for the first round of sub-state. All subsequent games will be hosted at Tonganoxie.