(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
Junior was a powerful scoring threat for the Cougars all season…
The Chewelah Cougars moved down to the NE 2B League for 2018 and with the classification change, there were few favors done in terms of degree of difficulty. Jaron Baldwin, however, looked like a star for most of the season, scoring 316 points in 26 games this year.
“Going into this year, I expected to struggle a little bit early on knowing our whole team has basically never had varsity experience prior to this year and I knew we’d soon become comfortable at the varsity level,” Baldwin said.
His prediction was true to form as Chewelah started out 3-5 and hovered around .500 for most of the season. The latter part of the year, however, the Cougars went on a run, winning six out of seven before bowing out of the district tournament just two wins away from regionals with a 13-12 record.
The 5’6” 155-pound junior averaged 12.2 points per game and was deadly from the three-point line, hitting 41 three-pointers for the Cougars.
Baldwin had four games where he scored 20 points or more, including a career high 24 points against Davenport on Jan. 29. This was after he previously dropped 20 points on the Gorillas on Jan. 18, and 20 points against Wilbur-Creston on Jan. 12.
Playing up a classification, Baldwin notched 21 points against Riverside, 13 points apiece against Deer Park and Newport and 11 points against Colville.
But as probably any coach will tell you, scoring totals don’t tell the whole story. As many fans in Pein Lynch Gym could attest, a good chunk of those points came from fast break steals and opportunities the speedy Baldwin was able to make himself or with help from teammates.
“Being aggressive on both the offensive and defensive end led to success for me this year, as well as turning defense into offense for some easy buckets,” Baldwin said. “This strongest part of my game is getting to the rim to finish or shooting off the dribble as well as catch and shoot.”
Baldwin will have one more year with the Cougars, and it sounds like he really enjoyed this year’s squad which consistently improved during the year and capped the regular season off with a big victory over NE 2B North Division foe Northwest Christian. It showcased that while Chewelah was still adjusting to the 2Bs – which in this area could be considered better than the 1A leagues – it should continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
“Playing with this year’s coaching staff was a great experience, everybody got along well and had fun while being pushed to get better at the same time,” Baldwin said. “I feel next year we will pick up right where we left off this year winning games with more experience at this level and everybody getting better in the off-season.”
While not garnering all-league honors, there were some other standout players for the Cougars this year. Sophomore Nick Franks finished the year averaging 9.5 points per game with 28 three-pointers and a season-high of 17 points against Northwest Christian on Feb. 1, and 17 points against Newport on Dec. 8.
Senior Carl Oman continues to be the best enigma that Chewelah sports could have. The cross-country, basketball-shooting guard and catcher combo has made a big impact on Cougar athletics. This year he notched 8.8 points per game, hit 20 threes, took countless charges against people taller than him and we lost count on how many times he flustered kids he was guarding.
Chewelah finished the year ranked No. 19 according to the Class 2B rankings on Max Preps just behind Napavine at No. 18. They were the third-highest ranked NE 2B League North Division team in the Max Prep Rankings.