Gerry Steele
The Baker City Herald
Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Seaside challenged Baker for approximately two minutes Saturday in their Class 4A state girls basketball game in the Baker gym.

The game was tied 4-4 about two minutes in before Baker, thanks in part to a stifling full-court press, broke it open.

Baker finished the first quarter on a 15-1 run on the way to a 67-31 win.

The victory earned Baker a third straight trip to the state tournament.

Baker (22-1) will play Stayton Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in a quarterfinal game at Forest Grove High School.

With Saturday’s game tied 4-4, Baker’s swarming defense and balanced offense took over.

Rose Gwillim led the way with five points. Jayme Ramos and Sydney Younger each added four, and Isabella Nemec two.

Baker led 19-5 after one quarter, and 31-16 at halftime.

The Bulldogs’ press yielded multiple steals in the backcourt, leading to easy baskets.

“Defense is always the key to a successful program and the girls have bought into that,” Baker coach Mat Sand said.

As if Baker wasn’t dominating enough, the Bulldogs erupted for a 24-8 run in the third quarter. The pressure defense continued to cause major problems for the Seagulls.

“That really takes the wind out of (the opponent’s) sails,” Sand said. “The girls hit on all cylinders. It’s really fun to watch.”

Younger led the way with eight points, and Ramos six.

Younger led three Bulldogs in double figures with 18 points. Ramos added 17 and Gwillim 15.

SEASIDE (31)

McFadden, Goin, Zagata 1 0-0 2, Blodgett 3 0-0 8, Kiser 4 1-2 10, Angulo-Joli, Doney, Van Dusen, Taylor 3 5-7 11, Garhofer, Turner, Douglas. Totals 11 6-9 31.

BAKER (67) -

Elms, Keller 3 0-0 6, Younger 8 0-0 18, Ramos 7 2-3 17, Carter 0 2-2 2, Calaway, Nemec 3 0-0 7, Benson 1 0-0 2, Gwillim 5 5-7 15. Totals 27 9-12 67.

Seaside - 5 11 8 7 — 31

Baker 19 12 24 12 — 67

Three-point baskets — Blodgett 2, Kiser, Younger 2, Ramos, Nemec. Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Seaside 10, Baker 8. Technicals — none.

Bulldogs bank on experience for breakthrough at state

Sydney Younger knows what it’s like to play at the Class 4A girls state basketball tournament.

Younger doesn’t know what it’s like not to play in that event, in fact.

The Baker junior is one of a core group of Bulldogs who are preparing for their third straight trip to the tournament, and their expectations are high.

Baker lost its first game at the state tournament in both 2017 and 2018.

Younger said she believes this year’s squad will benefit from its previous experience in the tournament.

“I think it’s extremely valuable because we know what to expect now,” Younger said. “We know how to get ready. We’ve been there.”

Her coach agrees.

Mat Sand, who is in his fourth year as the Bulldogs’ head coach, said Younger and other veteran players, including fellow starters Rose Gwillim and Jayme Ramos, both seniors, have grown not only as players but as leaders.

“That’s something that’s hard to teach, but this year we’re really excelling in that category,” Sand said. “The girls are actually coaching out on the floor, and that’s not something we’ve had before.”

Sand also believes this year’s team is extremely close-knit.

“They genuinely like each other,” he said. “I’m not saying last year’s team didn’t, but this is a different dynamic.”

Younger echoes her coach’s thoughts.

“I feel closer with everyone,” she said. “I’m really excited.”

Sand said Baker’s success this year — the Bulldogs’ only loss was to Burns — has been rewarded as Baker is the second seed in the state tournament.

Last year, as the fourth seed, Baker’s first-round opponent was Banks, which was playing just 15 minutes from home.

“I think we have a good draw this year,” Sand said.

— Jayson Jacoby

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