By Gerry Steele
Hall of Fame broadcaster Bill Schonely said many times during Portland Trail Blazer games that "you've got to make your free throws."
Baker took that idea to heart Friday, making 23 of 29 free throws on the way to a 53-46 Greater Oregon League boys basketball win at La Grande.
The teams entered the game tied for first place in the GOL with 3-1 records. Baker has now defeated the Tigers in both meetings this season.
"I was pleased with our resilience," said Baker coach Joel Richardson.
"I was really pleased with our tough, gritty play after having a bad game against Ontario."
Baker built a 15-point lead in the third quarter Friday only to have La Grande battle back to cut the lead to one point late in the fourth quarter.
Baker made just one field goal in the final eight minutes but hit 12 of 16 free throws to keep La Grande at bay.
"We got up by 15 and they made a little run at us. We went stagnant on offense. We shot free throws well the whole game, and particularly in the fourth quarter," Richardson said.
Ben Baxter was 6-of-8 from the line in the quarter, and Dillon Blankenship 5-of-6.
Baker led 40-38 with 5 minutes left in the game. A technical foul on La Grande's Jake Powell, and Blankenship's resulting pair of free throws, then lifted Baker up 42-38 with 3:59 left.
Then, after a timeout, Baker ran an offensive set that freed up Trent Taylor behind the defense for a layin - Baker's only basket in the fourth quarter.
"Trent made a nice cut to the basket, and then we made our free throws," Richardson said.
La Grande made one last run, cutting Baker's lead to just 47-46 with about a minute left. But Baxter and Blankenship combined to hit 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch for the win.
Mason Cline scored six of his nine points in the first quarter that ended with the teams knotted 13-13.
Braden Phillips then scored seven of his 16 in the second period to lift Baker into a 30-22 halftime lead.
Baker opened the second half on a 9-2 spurt, building its largest lead, 39-24.
La Grande answered, scoring the next dozen points to get back to within 39-36 a minute into the fourth period.
La Grande had lived on the three-point line in an earlier meeting at BHS. But, Friday the Tigers were held to two three-pointers.
"We wanted to do a better job of defending the perimeter, and I thought we did a great job of defending the threes," Richardson said.
Baker won the rebounding battle 28-21. Phillips led the was with a dozen, 10 on the defensive boards.
"It would have been easy to go to La Grande and lay an egg," Richardson said. "La Grande is a tough place to play.
"We got some great minutes from Trent. Ben was very consistent as usual. I thought Thomas Hamilton played really well. He didn't score a lot, but he did the other little things we needed."
Blankenship 2 7-8 11, Hamilton 0 2-2 2, Bachman 2 0-0 5, Taylor 1 2-2 4, Baxter 0 6-8 6, Cline 4 1-3 9, Phillips 5 5-6 16, Swiger. Totals 14 23-29 53.
LA GRANDE (46) -
Wicklander 2 8-10 12, Cederholm 1 1-2 4, Williams 2 2-2 6, White, Dall 2 2-2 6, Powell 3 1-2 8, March, Bodfish 1 2-4 4, Boyd 2 2-2 6. Totals 13 18-24 46.
Baker - 13 17 9 14 - 53
La Grande- 13 9 12 12 - 46
Three-point baskets - Bachman, Phillips, Cederholm, Powell. Fouled out - Cline, Phillips. Total fouls - Baker 22, La Grande 19. Technicals - Taylor, Powell.