Sophomore Wade Baldwin did a number of outstanding things in the third quarter to thwart a Bound Brook rally effort and restore control for Immaculata.
And an intriguing concept about his startling display of skills is that the 14 points he scored over the final 5:11 of the period may have been the least impressive of all his contributions.
The 6-1 guard, who closed with a game-high 20 points, ran the floor with supreme confidence, created havoc for Bound Brook at the top of the 1-3-1 zone and, in general, looked a lot older than 15 as he helped eighth-seeded Immaculata pull away from a three-point lead en route to a 57-43 win Saturday night in the second round of the Somerset County Tournament in Somerville. Ninth-seeded Bound Brook (16-3) had a 10-game winning streak snapped.
“He was the game-changer; our whole nucleus when we went to the halfcourt trap,” Immaculata head coach Mike Frauenheim said. “We have him there for a reason. He’s long, he’s active and he has great anticipation. He’d be an all-state receiver on the football field. That’s how talented he is.”
Senior swing Kyle Adam scored 13 points and sophomore guard James Smith added 10 to help Immaculata (9-9) automatically qualify for the NJSIAA Non-Public, A South tournament next month and also set up a quarterfinal-round SCT game Saturday against top-seeded and defending-champion Gill St. Bernard’s.
Baldwin’s numerous talents were revealed in the two steals he produced, two crisp assists and the three other steals he helped create with his work at the top of that zone, dispatched after Bound Brook had pulled to within 29-26 with a 6-0 run.
The points? Don’t be mistaken, there were some creative, entertaining shots made by Baldwin, like his pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 38-26 lead with 4:22 to go in the quarter and his fast-break dunk 20 seconds later.
But the majority of Baldwin’s buckets that period were triggered by turnovers, either his directly or those caused by Smith or senior forward Michael Perkins. In other words, no fireworks without lighting the match on defense.
“It was really nice,” Baldwin said if his scoring burst, “but the 1-3-1 that coach put us in is what set up some steals and got us running. We executed that really well and I think that’s what won us the game.”
Immaculata may not have lost had it not switched to a trapping zone. After all, the Spartans had carved out a 27-18 halftime lead with straight man-to-man as well as a patient, disciplined offense led by the outside shooting of Adam. He banged in three 3-pointers and scored 11 of his 13 points and his club sank 6 of 9 from behind the arc to open that nine-point lead.
Chances are, Adam could have heated up again if pressed into duty in the second half (he attempted only one shot in the second half, making a layup). Junior Tom Haldeman, who sank two 3-pointers in the first half, also could have been of use once again in the offense. But Frauenheim elected to put Baldwin in the most dangerous spot he could occupy, and the move was golden.
“We had the 1-3-1 in our game plan, for sure,” Frauenheim said. “With (Bound Brook’s) athletic ability, they were going to start dribble-driving and then they’d start getting fouled. I said this was going to turn into a foul-fest if we didn’t get out and change the tempo.”
Senior forward Tyjohn Young was not exactly flustered by the zone defense, as he scored five of his 15 points against it and had seven all told in the third quarter. But his high-scoring squad certainly had its rhythm jolted.
“We really bore down in the third quarter after the timeout, and we handled their pressure really well,” Adam said. “They have been pressing teams, hammering them by getting steals and layups. We needed to handle the ball pressure and we did.”
Immaculata won for the second time in three games and for just the fourth time in 10 games. But there is a good deal of youth on this squad, and Saturday’s performance gave every indication that the Spartans are maturing.
“I think a lot of people thought we were gonna lose this game, to be honest,” Adam said. “We haven’t been executing, and when you don’t execute, you can’t score. Tonight we executed our offense. We moved the ball well and we knocked down some shots.”
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS