Nathan L.

La Grande hands Baker first GOL loss to pull into a first-place tie

Cold shooting and a sluggish start doomed Baker in its Greater Oregon League boys basketball game at La Grande Friday.

The Bulldogs couldn't do much right in the first quarter, falling

behind early on the way to a 50-45 loss to the Tigers. It was Baker's

first GOL loss of the season and pulled La Grande into a first-place

tie with the Bulldogs, both at 4-1.

"We didn't shoot the ball well all night," said Baker coach Craig

Woods. "We were out of sync in the first quarter. We did a lot of

dribbling, but we didn't penetrate the key like we should have. We just

couldn't get anything going in the first quarter."

Baker trailed 7-4 after one period.

Then, down 12-4 in the second period, the Bulldogs battled back. A basket by Derek Blankenship and three free throws by Jesse Brown and Walker Kaseberg pulled the Bulldogs back to within 12-9 with about five minutes left in the first half.

Then, just as quickly, Baker turned the ball over three consecutive times and La Grande took advantage to build its lead to 17-9.

Baker bounced back to within three points twice more in the quarter before La Grande scored the final five points of the half for a 24-16 halftime edge.

Each team scored 13 points in the third quarter leaving La Grande still on top 37-29 entering the final eight minutes.

Then Baker made its biggest challenge.

Two Blankenship baskets, the second coming off a Dekker Smith steal, and a steal and basket by Kaseberg brought Baker back to within 37-35 with 6:35 left in the game.

But that was as close as the Bulldogs would get. La Grande's Kevin Attila scored eight of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to hold Baker at bay.

"Attila hit some big shots," Woods said.

"I told the kids we just needed to weather the storm after the first quarter, but we just didn't quite get it done."

Baker managed to cut the deficit to three points three times in the final quarter, but each time La Grande answered.

"We knew La Grande is a strong, athletic team, especially on their own floor," Woods said.

Blankenship led Baker with 17 points.

The teams meet one final time during the regular season, Feb. 24 at Baker. That game likely will decide the GOL champion.

"At least it will be on our floor," Woods said. "That's the way a league should be. It shouldn't be decided too early."

Baker 4 12 13 16 - 45

La Grande 7 17 13 13 - 50

Baker (45) - Kaseberg 2 1-2 5, Brown 2 2-2 7, Richards, Adams, Smith 4 1-3 9, Richardson 3 0-1 7, Quintana, Blankenship 6 5-5 17. Totals 17 9-13 45.

La Grande (50) - Johnson, Yundt 0 0-1 0, Attila 8 2-2 21, Nice 2 0-0 4, Tooke 2 1-3 5, Boyd 2 1-2 5, Chandler 1 0-0 3, Townsend 4 2-3 12. Totals 19 6-13 50.

Three-point goals - Brown, Richardson, Attila 3, Chandler, Townsend 2. Fouled out - Smith. Total fouls - Baker 18, La Grande 17. Technicals - La Grande Coach Mills.