By JAYSON JACOBY
Of the Baker City Herald
The Baker girls basketball team played like state champions for two first halves in a row.
Both second halves, however, were considerably less pleasant for the Bulldogs.
And it was those second-half lapses in the Class 3A state tournament at Corvallis' Gill Coliseum Friday in a 50-39 loss to Burns in the semifinals, Saturday in a 56-42 loss to Douglas in the third-place game that cost Baker a chance to claim the school's first girls state basketball title.
Coach Tim Smith, though disappointed with the consecutive losses, is still pleased with his team's 21-10 season, in which the Bulldogs won two playoff games, both in the Willamette Valley, to advance to the state tournament.
andquot;I'm certainly proud of the girls for a fifth-place finish,andquot; Smith said. andquot;It would have been nice to end with a win.andquot;
At halftime Saturday afternoon against Douglas (23-4), it seemed likely that Baker would conclude the season with that win and with the third-place trophy to haul 380 miles home.
Baker led Douglas 24-18 after two quarters.
The Bulldogs made 41 percent of their shots in the first half. Katy Sullivan, who led Baker with 14 points, made a trio of three-pointers, the last of which gave Baker its largest lead, 19-7, with six minutes left in the second quarter.
Douglas' shooting was even more accurate 47 percent but Baker's defense limited Douglas to just 17 shots, five fewer than the Bulldogs attempted.
Compare those statistics with the same figures from the second half and you'd probably conclude that Baker won.
The Bulldogs put up 31 shots in the second half, Douglas just 16.
Trouble is, Douglas made 10 of its attempts (63 percent), and Baker converted seven (23 percent).
andquot;We were getting some good looks, but we couldn't get the ball to go in the basket,andquot; Smith said. andquot;Emotionally and physically we just ran out of gas.andquot;
Still, Baker maintained its poise even as its shots were clanging off the rim.
The Bulldogs committed just nine turnovers against Douglas, the fewest in any of its 31 games.
And the second half actually started well for Baker.
Kate Vaughan scored on a layin to give the Bulldogs a 26-18 lead less than 30 seconds into the third quarter.
But then Douglas started to chisel at Baker's lead, and by the end of the third quarter the Bulldogs' advantage was a single basket, at 34-32.
Douglas dominated the fourth quarter.
Katherine Tripp's basket with 6:19 left vaulted Douglas to a 36-34 lead its first lead since early in the first quarter.
Katie White's layin tied the score at 36 with 5:28 left, but Alisha Shigley gave Douglas the lead for good with a basket just a few seconds later.
Over the next 3 minutes Douglas scored 12 points in a row 10 of them from the free-throw line, as Baker was forced to foul.
Douglas thwarted that tactic by making 17 of 25 free throws in the second half.
Kate Vaughan's free throw with 1:50 left broke Douglas' scoring streak, but by then Baker trailed 50-37.
The situation seemed depressingly familiar to the Bulldogs, coming as it did only one day after their similarly sluggish sequence against top-ranked and undefeated Burns (the Hilanders won the state title Saturday, beating Philomath 49-33).
Burns led 10-7 after the first quarter in Friday's semifinal game.
Baker then scored the first 10 points of the second quarter. The Bulldogs led 17-10 with 4:34 left in the first half, and Burns, the overwhelming favorite to win the state title, suddenly seemed vulnerable.
And although Burns scored the final seven points of the quarter to tie the score at 17 at halftime, Baker remained in position to pull off an improbable upset.
andquot;We went into the locker room knowing we had just given up a seven-point lead,andquot; Smith said. andquot;We had played a really good first half, but we didn't finish it off.andquot;
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Burns' seven-point run in the second quarter was mere foreshadowing.
To say the Hilanders excelled in the third quarter would be to engage in egregious understatement.
A few measurements:
o Burns outscored Baker 16-0.
o Baker missed all 13 of its field-goal attempts.
o Burns made seven of 12 shots.
andquot;We played the second half with the same intensity as the first, but Burns turned it up a couple notches and we didn't adjust to their increased pressure,andquot; Smith said.
When Baker's Katie White made a jumper with 7:37 left in the game, Baker had scored its first points in almost 13 minutes.
During that game-deciding span, which started midway through the second quarter, Burns outscored the Bulldogs 24-0.
andquot;That devastated us,andquot; Smith said.
And yet Baker didn't concede defeat.
After Katie Torland boosted Burns' lead to 39-24 with a basket with 5:38 left, Baker embarked on a 12-3 run seven of those points from Sullivan that trimmed Burns' lead to just 42-36 with 1:57 left.
Thirty seconds later Sullivan's three-point try barely missed.
Baker then had to foul, and Burns made several free throws in the final 90 seconds to seal the win.
andquot;Even as poorly as the third quarter went, we were in the game at the end,andquot; Smith said.
Burns made 58 percent of its field-goal tries in the second half.
Baker made 23 percent the same percentage as in the second half of Saturday's loss to Douglas.
Baker 14 10 10 8 42
Douglas 7 11 14 24 56
Baker (42) Sullivan 5-13, 0-1, 14; Thatcher 0-5 0-0, 0, White 5-14, 1-3, 11; Kate Vaughan 2-10, 1-2, 5; Wittich 2-7, 3-4, 7; Jayo 0-0 0-0, 0; McEnroe 0-0, 0-0, 0; Julia Vaughan 0-0, 0-0, 0; Owens 2-4 -0-0, 5; Richardson 0-0 0-0, 0. Totals 16-53, 5-10, 42.
Douglas (56) New 3-5, 7-8, 14; Shigley 4-7, 2-5, 10; Bachmeier 0-1, 0-0, 0; Vermeer 5-9, 1-2, 12; Valenzuela 4-6, 7-12, 15; Pruitt 0-0, 0-0, 0; Bishop 0-0, 0-0, 0; Blankenship 0-1, 0-0, 0; Pope, 0-0 0-0, 0; Tripp 2-5, 1-2, 11. Totals 18-33, 18-29, 56.
Three-point goals Baker 5-15 (Sullivan 4-8, Thatcher 0-5, Kate Vaughan 0-1, Owens 1-1). Douglas 2-6 (New 1-3, Bachmeier 0-1, Vermeer 1-2). Rebounds Baker 28 (Wittich 9), Douglas 35 (Valenzuela 10). Assists Baker 12 (Sullivan 5), Douglas 15 (New 7). Fouled out White. Total fouls Baker 20, Douglas 12. Technicals none.
Burns 10 7 16 17 50
Baker 7 10 0 22 39
Burns (50) Jessica Clemens 8-14, 0-0, 17; Rickman 2-2, 3-5, 7; Maria Clemens 1-6, 4-4, 6; Cornell 1-3, 1-2, 3; Torland 5-15, 3-6, 15; Dinsmore 0-0 0-0, 0; Mues 1-2, 0-0, 2. Totals 18-42, 11-17, 50.
Baker (39) Sullivan 4-12, 2-2, 13; Thatcher 3-6, 4-9, 11; White 2-5, 0-1, 4; Kate Vaughan 2-5, 1-2, 5; Wittich 2-9, 2-2, 6; Jayo 0-2, 0-0, 0; McEnroe 0-0, 0-0, 0; Julia Vaughan 0-2, 0-1, 0; Owens 0-1, 0-0, 0; Richardson 0-0, 0-0, 0. Totals 13-43, 9-17, 39.
Three-point goals Burns 3-5 (Torland 2-3, Jessica Clemens 1-1, Maria Clemens 0-1). Baker 4-15 (Sullivan 3-9, Thatcher 1-4, White 0-1, Jayo 0-1, Julia Vaughan 0-1). Rebounds Burns 34 (Jessica Clemens 11), Baker 27 (Wittich 10). Assists Burns 10 (Torland, Jessica Clemens 4), Baker 8 (Sullivan 3). Fouled out Rickman. Total fouls Burns 21, Baker 12. Technicals none.