Mustangs finish strong in Coach Baum's farewell game
"I was so proud of our team," said Baum. "They played hard and played well against a quality team."
DOWNERS GROVE — The short of it was Downers Grove South's boys basketball team fell to West Aurora 67-59 in a regional semifinal game Feb. 26.
The long of it was that the Mustangs played some of their best basketball of the season in that game and gave head coach Jay Baum a reason to smile in the last game of his coaching career.
"I was so proud of our team," said Baum, who is retiring as a teacher at the end of the school year. "They played hard and played well against a quality team that won a lot of games and went on to win a regional title. We battled to the end, never gave up, left it all on the court and left with our heads held high."
South (15-12) never stopped battling in any game this season. The Mustangs' 12 losses came against 10 teams, four of which went on to win regional titles: West Aurora, St. Joseph, Proviso East and Oswego. They topped two teams — York and Oak Park-River Forest — that went on to win regional titles.
Baum said he looked up at the clock late in the game against West Aurora, and that's when it finally hit him that his run as coach, which included regional titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012, was finally coming to an end.
"It was very emotional for me, but I can live with the way it ended because the kids played hard and competed," Baum said. "We gave everything we had."
He took time after the game to speak about every single player on the team. He thanked them and the assistant coaches for their efforts. Baum's legacy as coach will remain with the program thanks to the mark left by the senior class he coached this year as well as that of junior starting guard Danny Spinuzza.
"Scott McNellis, Robert Mara and Jordan Cannon were our three senior captains and they led us all year, and Danny did so many unheralded things for us all year," Baum said. "They always came ready to practice. Every day they showed what it means to play for your team and not for yourself. They were all very unselfish players."
The trio of senior captains provided Baum with a 52-43 win over Yorkville in a regional quarterfinal. Mara scored 17, McNellis 16 and Cannon 10 in the win, and Cannon poured in a game-high 27 points, including four three-pointers, in the loss to West Aurora.
"I didn't want it to end," Baum said. "It was 28 years and we won a lot of games, and I was blessed with some great players and some great coaches."
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