Huge first half propels Baldwyn past Walnut, into Division 1-2A title game

Baldwyn’s Rodney Stewart comes up with a steal on a forced turnover against Walnut in the first half of Thursday night’s semifinal match of the Division 1-2A tournament in Belmont. (News photo/Jason Collum)

BELMONT | After almost being lulled to sleep in the first half Thursday night against Walnut, the Bearcats got a wake-up call by the Wildcats in the second half. Walnut came out of the break fighting with a vengeance – but ultimately couldn’t stop Baldwyn (21-2) from reaching Friday night’s Division 1-2A title game with a 66-40 win.

Baldwyn will face the winner of Thursday night’s late game, Pine Grove or New Site, in the championship game at 8:30 p.m.

It was smooth sailing in the first two quarters for Baldwyn as Walnut looked completely out of sorts and overmatched. Rodney Stewart opened scoring on Baldwyn’s first possession and launched a 12-0 run by the Bearcats that saw multiple players sink three-pointers. The Bearcats were able to keep Walnut off the scoreboard until 3:20 in the first period, but that was all the offense the Wildcats would see the rest of the quarter as Baldwyn ratcheted up a ferocious defense, forcing three turnovers and going on an 8-0 run to close the quarter up 20-2. 

Stewart opened the second quarter with Baldwyn’s next steal against the Wildcats and then took a pass under the goal from Andy Trollinger to extend the run and give Baldwyn a 22-2 lead. Walnut picked off another basket with 6:35 to go but did find the basket a couple more times in the next two minutes to draw closer to Baldwyn. By the two-minute mark the Bearcats held a 34-8 lead. Baldwyn scored one more point on a free throw and Walnut picked up three more points to close out scoring and head to halftime with Baldwyn leading 35-11. 

Andy Trollinger was fouled numerous times by Walnut and went five-of-six from the free-throw line. (News photo/Jason Collum)

Walnut came out of the break a completely different team – and Baldwyn may have helped with reduced intensity. The Wildcats outpaced Baldwyn 15-10 in the first four minutes, but Baldwyn kept things a little more even the rest of the way, holding a 52-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter. 

Joel Barber dropped in a basket to open the fourth quarter and Nate Shaw scored later off a rebound to give Baldwyn a 56-33 edge with just over five minutes to go. Following a Wildcat free throw Shaw added two more baskets under the goal. Walnut added a trey, but it was virtually all Bearcats the rest of the way as Baldwyn advanced to the Division 1-2A title game on Friday evening with the 66-40 win.

Trollinger’s scoring from the field was limited but he made the most of free-throw opportunities, shooting five-of-six on the night.

Shaw was on fire under the goal, leading all scorers with 18 points. Jamaury Marshall pitched in nine points, followed by Barber (8), Trollinger (8), Stewart (6), Preston Ward (6), Jordan McMillian (5), Mason Calomese (2), Terrell Robinson (2), and Jyquan Wallace (2).