Home court paves way for Baldwin victory

BALDWIN — The home court, not to mention a hot scoring touch from Andon Ware, provided the advantage the Baldwin Panthers were hoping for on Wednesday night, March 9.

Ware knocked down 32 points and Aaron Thomas sank the winning free throws to lift Baldwin to a 55-53 boys basketball victory Wednesday at home in a Class D district semifinal.

The season ended for Marion, which had won five straight, at 9-12. Baldwin advanced to the district finals.

Martel Forest and Thomas scored seven points apiece for the Panthers.

“What a way to get your third win of the year, at districts, on your home floor and going to the championship game,” said Baldwin coach Scott Pedigo. “You can’t ask for much more than that. One thing I’m proud of is it shows the kids didn’t quit. It’s easy being 2-18 and just go through the motions of this game.”

“My teammates were feeding me,” Ware said. “It was a team effort. From the time we were practicing, we had it in our heads we’d come and win this game. We worked hard and we did it.””

Jarrod Brown netted 20 points for Marion.

Baldwin carried a 37-36 lead going into the fourth. Marion scored the first three points in the fourth. Jarrod Brown’s layup early in the quarter gave Marion a 41-38 lead. Ware scored three straight points to tie it.

Jonte Abernathy’s 3-point play put the Eagles back in front. Ware came back with a basket but missed a free throw to tie it. But Thomas’ triple put Baldwin up 46-45 with 2:45 to play. Ware followed with two free throws for a 48-45 lead. Markus Jenema scored, was fouled and missed the free throw. Brown grabbed the rebound and scored for a 49-48 Eagle lead at 1:58.

Plotts hit a free throw to tie the game at 49 with 1:30 to play and Baldwin got the ball back on a Marion turnover. Baldwin committed a turnover with 53 seconds to play.

Brown drove the length of the court to score for Marion but Ware did the same thing for Baldwin, making it 51-51 with 40 seconds to play. Brown hit two free throws with 30 seconds to play to give Marion a two-point lead.

Thomas hit two foul shots with 20 seconds left for Baldwin. Forest stole the ball for Baldwin and passed it to Thomas, who was fouled with five seconds to play. He hit both shots for a two-point lead. Brown drove the full court for Marion and missed the shot as Travis Plotts grabbed the rebound with no time left to clinch the win.

Ware scored 19 of his points in the third quarter.

“He was so upset with his game against Northport last week that he just wanted to show he was a better player than he showed in that game last week,” Pedigo said.

The Panthers were trailing 25-21 at halftime.

The Panthers tied the game 27-27 later in the third on three straight field goals including a layup by Ware, to create the deadlock. Ware’s triple made it 30-27 Baldwin at 4:50.

Jarid Frederick scored for Marion and the Eagles regained the lead 33-32. Ware scored moments later to put Baldwin back in front. The two teams battled for the lead the rest of the quarter. Tyler Buck’s free throw late in the quarter gave Baldwin a 37-36 lead going into the fourth.

Baldwin led 3-0 early in the first quarter before Marion hit six straight points. Ware had five of his points in the first quarter but Baldwin trailed 15-8 going into the second.

Ware had eight of his points in the second quarter to keep Baldwin close. He had a 3-point play with 44 seconds left to make it a 25-21 game. Jarred Brown led Marion in the first half with seven points.

Baldwin incurred foul trouble early, however, and Thomas drew his fourth foul midway in the second quarter and Plotts had his fourth by early in the third. Both, however, were in the game late to hit the winning free throws and grab the winning rebound.

“I brought in James Blue, a freshman, to take Aaron’s spot and he didn’t hurt us,” Pedigo said. “We didn’t have the big mental turnover.”

Marion had the height advantage, which at times tormented the Panthers.

“We just couldn’t hit a layup tonight,” said Marion coach Tim Mitchell. “We played hard. Baldwin hit some tough shots.”