Baldwin Boys Will Miss Playoffs; Two Section Games Still to Play
Head Coach Joe Urmann sees work to be done this coming offseason.
A 3-1 run in mid-January won't be enough to get Baldwin High School's boys basketball team into the 2013 WPIAL playoffs, thanks to the eight straight losses that preceded it and the three more that followed it.
Though Baldwin (7-13 overall) beat Trinity High School, 54-43, on Friday to improve to 3-9 in WPIAL AAAA's Section 4, the Highlanders have dropped from postseason contention.
With two section games still to play this season, the best that Baldwin can do is finish with five section wins. Canon-McMillan and Peters Township high schools—both of which already have five wins in Section 4—still have to play each other once more this regular season, meaning that at least one of them will finish with at least six wins. And six wins is what it will take to at least tie for fourth place—the final playoffs spot—in Section 4.
This is the third straight year that Baldwin will miss the postseason, and unless the Highlanders can win both of their remaining games—Feb. 5 at Peters Township at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 8 vs. Bethel Park High School, also at 7:30—Baldwin will not match its 9-13 overall record from each of the past two seasons.
Second-year Head Coach Joseph Urmann said that a lack of commitment to defense is largely to blame for the Highlanders' troubles this year. Indeed, Baldwin has allowed the most points per game in Section 4.
"Our defense was a huge point of weakness at the beginning of the year," Urmann said. "We were just giving up way, way too many points."
Once the Highlanders tightened things up in mid-January, they experienced some success.
"Our defense has improved significantly," Urmann said. "We're giving up less and less. If we can play in the high-40s and mid-50s, we're gonna be in the game. If we give up any more than that, we know that we just don't have the offensive firepower to score that many points."
Improvements or not, it was all too little too late for Baldwin playoffs-wise, especially after a 56-49 loss at Upper St. Clair High School on Jan. 29 effectively ended the Highlanders' hopes.
Urmann also pointed to a lack of experience as something that hurt his team.
"Youth certainly played a factor," he said. "It looks like we have three seniors in our starting lineup, but one of our seniors—(5-foot-11 guard) Stefan (Ayers)—was out all of last year with a shoulder injury. Our other guys—(6-foot-3 guard/forward) Jake (Michaels) and (6-foot guard/forward) A.J. (Greco)—were really just big role players last year for us.
"They did a great job stepping up. It's just a totally different way of playing the game when we're relying on them making our plays all of the time.
"But I also give credit to the teams that beat us."
Section 4 is certainly nothing to sneeze at. At the top of that section's standings sit Upper St. Clair (16-3 overall, 11-1 Section 4) and Bethel Park (15-4, 9-3) high schools, two teams on some people's short list of WPIAL championship contenders. And followed by those schools are four more teams with at least nine overall wins.
While some out-of-contention teams will mortgage the present for the future at this point of their seasons, Urmann said that that won't be the case at Baldwin.
"We're not playing for the future," he said. "We're not gonna throw in a bunch of our younger guys just to get ready for next year. We're gonna scout like we would normally scout for any other game, as coaches, and practice just like we would normally practice.
"Like every other section game, we know how important it is to prepare for it (Feb. 5 at Peters). Really, we just wanna try to win these two games and not try to overthink it."
Asked to look ahead for just a moment, Urmann said that he sees work to be done almost immediately in order for Baldwin's 2013-14 season to turn out differently than its previous three.
"We're in the process of building the program," he said. "The offseason's gonna be huge for us. We're really gonna have a lot of work to do because we're gonna be really young again next year. I know it looks like we're gonna have six juniors coming back, but only maybe one or two of them saw significant varsity time this year.
"So, we're gonna rely on a good offseason—getting in the weight room—and hopefully, get some guys playing on the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) circuit. We really gotta get in the gym a lot and teach this summer."
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