BALDWIN CITY — As the top seed in the Class 4A-II state tournament, the Baldwin girls basketball team realizes there will be some added pressure going into its quarterfinal matchup against No. 8 seed Frontenac at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at White Auditorium in Emporia.
Rather than let that pressure affect them, the Bulldogs are focused on sticking to what they do best: putting the pressure on their opponents. Baldwin has put together a 21-1 campaign in large part by coming up with 18.5 steals per game.
"We want to play fast and if you want to do that, you've got to be able to pressure the basketball. We've got some quickness, we've got some athleticism and that's the best way to take advantage of it," Baldwin girls basketball coach Bob Martin said. "We feel like our best chance to win is to go out and challenge people and get them in a transition game. We've been pretty successful with it so far."
Senior Abby Ogle has served as the spark for the Bulldogs' defense with 6.6 steals per contest. Ogle's defense has led to some lofty offensive numbers as well. The Baldwin senior has averaged 16.9 points and 4.5 assists per game to lead the Bulldogs in both categories.
Ogle was a freshman on the Bulldogs' state runner-up team from 2015, and also helped Baldwin to a state tournament berth during her sophomore season. The 5-foot-7 guard is looking forward to the opportunity of winning Baldwin's third state title in program history and its first since 1996.
"It's really exciting because I feel like we have a pretty good shot going into it," Ogle said. "We're just really excited and ready to go."
Baldwin's lone loss came to Piper (21-0, No. 1 seed in the 4A-I tournament) on Jan. 27 in the Top Gun championship game at Wellsville. All of the Bulldogs' wins have been by double digits, but their second-to-last home game was far from an easy one.
Despite downing De Soto, 58-39, the Bulldogs had their backs against the wall as they faced an 18-point deficit in the first half. Martin's squad was able to whittle the Wildcats' lead down to 11 by halftime before blitzing them with a 17-0 run to begin the third quarter.
"It tells you what you're capable of and that you're never out of a game. We are capable of putting spurts together," Martin said. "We have gone on nothing quite like that, but we have gone on runs in that kind of manner before. We've been able to do it at times.
"There's time where you're not always as consistent as you want to be and there's times we've struggled a little bit. We've always been able to put a spurt together and that obviously was our best one. I think it gives you a little bit of confidence that you can survive almost any situation."
Although Ogle has led the Bulldogs in points, assists and steals, the veteran squad has its fair share of depth. Junior Kayla Kurtz is averaging double figures with 13.4 points per game. Senior Reilly Stewart and junior Carly Lindenmeyer are averaging just over seven points per contest, and junior Kate Ogle has stuffed the stat sheet with 6.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
"It's been really exciting," Kurtz said. "We've had a lot of good moments together and it's just been a really fun time."
The Bulldogs' path through sub-state included an 84-17 rout of Osawatomie and 55-35 victory over Burlington. Although Frontenac owns a 9-13 record, Martin said his team won't be looking past the Raiders.
"It will be an interesting matchup because they look to be a pretty physical team," Martin said. "We're not really big. We're more on the slender side, if anything, so that's going to be a challenge for us."
The Bulldogs have been digging deep into the scouting report of Frontenac this week in practice, but when push comes to shove, Ogle said the key to victory will be sticking to what has led them to this point.
"Just playing our normal game," Ogle said. "Every time we start playing everybody else's games, we slow down and force ourselves to have turnovers. When we play our game, we do play our best."
The winner of Baldwin/Frontenac will play No. 4 seed Hugoton (15-7) or No. 5 seed Baxter Springs (13-9) at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. The other side of the bracket included tilts between No. 2 seed Marysville (17-4) and No. 7 Nickerson (12-10), and No. 3 Andale (16-5) and No. 6 Topeka Hayden (12-10).