Janelle Baal’s game has blossomed this year.
The Dakota Ridge point guard has gone from distributor to scorer, averaging 11.1 points per game. The senior plays aggressive defense and still hands out nearly three assists a game.
While Baal’s scoring may be up, the wins are not. As the lone holdover from an experienced 2007 Dakota Ridge team that reached the Class 5A state quarterfinals, Baal hasn’t experienced losing on a consistent basis until this year.
Admittedly, it’s hard to take.
On Jan. 6 in the Eagles’ game against George Washington, Baal knocked down four 3-pointers and scored 18 points. A good stat line, for sure, but the Patriots, thanks to a 15-0 run to open the fourth quarter, left the gymnasium at Dakota Ridge High School with a 47-39 Class 5A nonleague win.
The loss dropped the Eagles to 3-7 and they fell to 3-8 after taking a 55-44 loss to Ralston Valley in a 5A Jefferson County League game Jan. 9.
“It’s a different style of play. We have to be more scrappy this year and can’t rely on the older players,” Baal said. “I have to be that person that makes things happen. We’re a very inexperienced team.”
That inexperience showed itself throughout the game.
The Eagles struggled with turnovers, giving the ball away 23 times. There were missed layups, missed box-outs on rebounds and an unwillingness to foul the Patriots (8-3) in the final minute after a Baal layup had closed the gap to eight points.
George Washington, which led 30-28 after three quarters, started the fourth quarter hot. Jaynelle Johnson hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 of the Patriots’ first 15 points of the quarter. She finished with 19 points.
With the Eagles down 17, Baal continued to fight. She scored nine of the Dakota Ridge’s final 11 points of the game. Her final basket brought the Eagles within 47-39, but the Patriots spread the floor and ran off the final seconds from the clock as Dakota Ridge tried to force a turnover.
“I’ve been working a lot on my 3-point shot,” Baal said. “I like being looked on to score more because it feels like I have a bigger role on the team.”
George Washington, thanks to its up-tempo play, led for most of the first half until a pair of free throws by Skippy Tripp gave the Eagles their first lead of the game. The Patriots scored a layup at the second quarter buzzer to take a 19-18 lead into halftime.
Dakota Ridge trailed by six early in the third, but a layup and jumper by sophomore Brooke Orcutt drew Dakota Ridge within two entering the fourth quarter. Orcutt finished with six points.
Baal, who says she would like to lead Jeffco in assists this season, will need some help from her teammates if the Eagles are going to be competitive in league play.
“We missed a lot of easy shots (Jan. 6),” Baal said. “That’s not going to happen every night. I think we’ll be OK if we rebound the basketball and make open shots.”