By GERRY STEELE
The giant sigh of relief heard around the Baker High School gym Friday afternoon was coming from the Pine-Eagle locker room.
That was shortly after the Spartans had defeated Wallowa 53-36 in the semifinals at the District 7-1A girls basketball tournament.
The victory lifted Pine-Eagle into Saturday's championship game. It also was the first time the Spartans had advanced past the first round at district in several years.
"Chelsie told me the jinx is finally over," said Spartans coach Roger Gulick, referring to a brief conversation he had with his senior daughter following the game.
"I was really impressed with our mental toughness," Coach Gulick said.
"The kids wouldn't quit. I think we're peaking just perfect."
Gulick said the Spartans were particulary pleased with the fact that they now are guaranteed a home state game.
"Now we have a home game no matter what," Gulick said. "I'm just really tickled for the girls."
The meeting between the Spartans and Wallowa was the fourth this season. The clubs split two Old Oregon League regular season games. Pine-Eagle then defeated the Lady Cougars in a playoff for seeding into district.
Gulick said it was tough finding a differet way to attack Wallowa.
"We ran a little more than the other games. Chelsie got that first basket going to the basket and away we went," he said.
Gulick, who finished the game with 29 points, scored eight points in the first quarter to lead the Spartans to a 17-11 advantage.
Helping the Spartan cause was Wallowa's Bekah Jamerson picking up two quick fouls.
Gulick added seven points in the second quarter as the Spartans went into the halftime locker room leading 29-24.
Wallowa had to deal with foul trouble with both Jamerson and Morgan Waters saddled with three fouls each.
Wallowa also shot just 25 percent from the field in the opening half, Pine-Eagle 39 percent.
Both teams cooled off at the break, mnaging just four points each in the third period.
Jamerson and Waters each picked up their fourth foul in the period.
Pine-Eagle exploded in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lady Cougars 20-8 to win going away.
Gulick capped her day with 12 points in the final eight minutes. Maddison Thatcher added six points.
The Spartans finished the game hitting 40 percent from the field. Pine-Eagle's defense stiffened even more in the second half, leaving Wallowa with just 19-percent shooting in the game.
Lena Carr led Pine-Eagle rebounders with 11. Maddison Thatcher added nine, and Brianna Thatcher eight.
Skylar Waters led Wallowa with 11 points. Jamerson added 10 rebounds, and Shawna Chrisman nine.
Sa. Chrisman 1 2-2 4, S. Waters 4 1-2 11, Wallace 1 0-1 3, M. Waters 1 2-2 4, Jamerson 3 1-2 7, Sh. Chrisman 3 1-4 7, Harshfield, Young 0 0-3 0. Totals 13 7-16 36.
PINE-EAGLE (53) andshy;
Gulick 12 5-6 29, B. Thatcher 2 0-1 5, Butler 1 1-2 3, Carr 1 0-0 2, M. Thatcher 4 4-9 12, Terjeson 1 0-1 2, Davis. Totals 21 10-19 53.
8 - 36
20 - 53
Three-point baskets - S. Waters 2, Wallace, B. Thatcher. Fouled out -S. Waters, M. Waters, Butler. Total fouls -Wallowa 23, Pine-Eagle 15. Techincals -none.