BAXTER — In a game that featured 55 foul calls, the one foul that wasn’t called may have been the dagger for the Baxter boys’ basketball team against GMG on Nov. 28.
With a five-point lead, senior Noah Galloway went up high for a rebound. There was contact between him and a GMG player that forced a travel. No foul called and the end result was one of the Bolts’ 23 turnovers in the game.
GMG took advantage at the offensive end with a 3-pointer, and the Wolverines scored 11 of the next 14 points to create some separation before holding off a late Baxter run during a 79-77 win.
“I feel like he fell down, but I don’t think he traveled,” Baxter coach Zach Hasselbrink said. “We didn’t get the call, and it was a game changer. It went from us having a five-point lead and the ball to them getting the ball and then hitting a 3-pointer.”
The Wolverines spoiled the Bolts’ program and Iowa Star Conference debut. GMG led by one after the first quarter, held a 33-30 lead at halftime and went into the fourth quarter with a four-point edge.
Baxter sophomore Cole Damman scored a career-high 29 points in the loss. He scored 10 in the third to rally the Bolts’ back from an 11-point deficit. His 3-pointer early in the fourth put Baxter in front 55-53 and then he capped a 6-0 run with a pair of free throws that put his team up 61-56.
Damman’s performance was impressive, but Kolton Gill was a little better down the stretch for the Wolverines (1-0 overall, 1-0 in the Iowa Star).
Gill answered Baxter’s 6-0 spurt with five straight to tie the game. After his team rallied back from a 68-61 hole, Gill put GMG in front with a 3-point play and then made four free throws in the final 15.3 seconds to close it out.
“It came down to us not hitting key shots down the stretch, not getting the key rebounds and fouling a little too much,” Hasselbrink said.
Gill scored 32 points to lead GMG, hitting four treys and draining 10-of-12 from the free-throw line.
The Bolts began their basketball era with a slow start.
GMG jumped out to a 5-0 lead, and Baxter didn’t score for the first 4 minutes, 25 seconds in the first quarter.
Senior Braydon Aker put in the first two buckets for Baxter and then a 3-pointer by Damman and a pair of free throws by sophomore Will Clapper closed the gap to one after the first eight minutes.
After senior Devin Carson put the Bolts up 12-10, GMG went on a 9-0 run to go up 19-12. Damman’s second triple of the night started a run for the Bolts that included a Galloway 3-pointer and a Clapper putback.
The two teams traded buckets the rest of the quarter, and GMG led 33-30 at the break.
Scoring the first six points of the third quarter, GMG extended its advantage to nine. Clapper kept the Bolts close until Damman took over.
With his team down 46-35, Damman scored five straight and then buried another 3-pointer to close the gap to six. His putback at the third-quarter buzzer made it 51-47 after three quarters.
“We thought he had the chance to be a special player,” Hasselbrink said about Damman. “He took over tonight on the offensive end when we needed a lift.”
The run didn’t stop there for the Baxter sophomore. Damman opened the fourth with another trey and then five straight points put his team up 55-53. The Bolts stayed in front until Gill buried a 3-pointer to tie it at 61-all.
The Wolverines hit 10 treys in the game.
“We need to scramble a little better and get to the spots quicker. We will fix some of that stuff as we go on,” Hasselbrink said. “We wanted to make sure they didn’t get the ball inside and score easy ones. We wanted to protect the paint because they are like to dribble drive. They hit some key shots in the corner. We wanted them to prove to us that they could make those and they did.”
While Damman showed what he is capable of, he showed some of his inexperience as well. With the game still undecided, the Bolts failed to score on back-to-back possessions. Damman took the ball to the bucket both times but couldn’t convert those drives into points or fouls.
“We saw a little of the sophomore in him, too. He’ll learn how to play those late-game possessions better,” Hasselbrink said. “He was having a heck of a game so I don’t fault him for trying to get into the lane and get fouled. I appreciate that he wanted to be the man and take the big shots, but he’ll learn that we still need to run offense in those spots.”
Three other Bolts scored in double-figures.
Clapper finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Aker tallied 10 points and 12 boards and Galloway chipped in 10 points.
Clapper had only four points at halftime. Hasselbrink wants and needs his 6-foot-5, 275-pound post player to get more involved at both ends of the floor.
“We want to be an inside-out basketball team. We weren’t getting it inside enough tonight, but Braydon Aker gave us a big lift, too,” Hasselbrink said. “We want to have two guys down there that they have to stop, but Will didn’t touch it enough.
“They did a pretty good job defending him. They double teamed him and did some other stuff to make it hard for him to score. They got him uncomfortable, but we have to get him more shots.”
The Bolts shot 51 percent from the floor, hit 10 3-pointers and made 19-of-31 from the foul line. The issue was the 23 turnovers that led to Wolverine points at the other end of the floor.
Baxter also committed 30 fouls and three players — Damman, Galloway and senior Travis Lindemoen — fouled out.
Aaron Fleming backed Gill’s big night with 17 points and Brayden Peterson chipped in 15 points. The Wolverines committed 25 fouls but only one player fouled out.
The Bolts played Meskwaki Settlement School on Dec. 5. They play Collins-Maxwell at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 in Maxwell.