Mat Sand always watches closely at the start of each game to see how effective the Baker girls basketball team’s defense is.

Sand could hardly have expected anything better than what he saw this weekend during the Central Oregon Tip-Off Classic at Prineville.

The Bulldogs, defending Class 4A state champions and ranked third in the most recent state rankings, allowed a single point in the first quarters of their two dominating wins.

On Friday, Estacada managed one point as Baker took a 19-1 lead after one quarter en route to a 68-27 win.

On Saturday Baker was even better, holding Crook County scoreless for the first eight minutes.

The Bulldogs breezed to a 63-8 win over the host team, also blanking Crook County in the second period and improving to 3-0 on the season.

“The girls are doing an excellent job for this early in the season,” Sand said. “It’s fun to watch.”

He employs full court pressure early in the game, relying on the guard tandem of Sydney Younger and Sydney Keller, to see whether the opposing team has skilled ball-handlers who can cope with the two Sydneys’ quick hands and feet.

Neither Estacada nor Crook County was up to that task.

“We try to set the tone of the game from the start, and that’s the way we started both games,” Sand said. “I believe we have one of the best backcourts, if not the best, in 4A basketball right now.”

Defensive pressure leads to easy baskets and free throws, and the Bulldogs had plenty of both in their two dominating wins.

“You can’t ask for a better shot than a free throw,” Sand said. “I always tell the girls that free throws and rebounds are what win games.”

Although Baker scored 21 points from the free throw line against Estacada, the Bulldogs’ percentage — 62% on 21 of 34 — wasn’t up to the 70% to 75% that Sand has set as a goal.

Baker exceeded that goal, however, in the rout over Crook County, going 15 for 18, an 83% clip.

Keller, Younger, Anna Carter and Lauren Benson were all perfect from the charity stripe.

Although Baker was never threatened in either game thanks to the dominant first quarters, the Bulldogs were consistent throughout, scoring in double figures in every quarter of both games.

Freshman post Jozie Ramos led the Bulldogs in scoring with 33 points in the two games — a team-high 17 against Estacada and tying with Younger with 16 against Crook County.

Younger, whom Sand calls the “best point guard in the state in 4A,” tallied 31 points in the two games, and Keller had 21 points.

Baker had contributions across the roster, as Lauren Benson scored 14 points in the two games, Anna Carter 10, Isabella Nemec and Hailey Zikmund 8 each, and Jocelynn Hellberg 6.

Younger said Baker’s emphasis on pressure defense, even in easy wins, helps the team prepare for tougher games ahead, and fosters team unity.

“You really get to rely on your teammates,” she said. “Even when we have big leads we have to keep our intensity high.”

Sand doesn’t expect such lopsided scores when Baker travels even farther west this week to compete in the three-day Junction City/Harrisburg tournament.

The Bulldogs will play one game Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The opponents and times haven’t been set.

“We’ll get tested more than we have been,” Sand said. “There’s some good teams there. It’ll be a good test for us, for our mental toughness.”

And although 3 games is a relatively small sample size, Sand said he’s happy with how the team is playing.

“I’m really pleased with the improvement just from the first game to the last one,” he said. “I think we’re on our way.”

Younger agrees.

“We have very strong chemistry like we did last year,” she said.

FRIDAY’S GAME

ESTACADA (27)

Jennings 0 0-0 0, Gripple 3 0-0 8, Liber 3 2-4 10; Youngberg 0 0-0 0, Crandell 0 1-2 1, Konde 1 0-0 3, Mireles 0 0-0 0, Hawkins 1 0-0 2, Guarnieri 0 0-0 0, Lake 1 0-0 2, Canifax 0 1-6 1. Totals 9 4-12 37.

BAKER (68) ­

Hellberg 0 0-0 0, Keller 5 4-6 14, Younger 5 5-10 15, Zikmund 2 4-6 8, Carter 1 1-2 4, Nemec 2 0-0 4, Ramos 6 5-8 17, Benson 2 2-2 6. Totals 23 21-34 68.

Estacada 1 10 11 5 — 27

Baker 19 19 16 14 — 68

Three-point baskets — Gripple 2, Liber 2, Konde, Carter. Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Estacada 22, Baker 12. Technicals — none.

SATURDAY’S GAME

CROOK COUNTY (8)

Remoss 0 0-0 0, Woodward 0 0-0 0, Kesberger 0 0-0 0, Freeman 0 0-0 0, Purplee 0 0-0 0, Hutchins 0 0-0 0, Nwen 0 0-0 0, Jonas 0 0-0 0, L. Barker 1 0-0 2, A. Barker 0 0-0 0, Martina 1 0-0 2, Brooks 1 2-6 4. Totals 3 2-6 8.

BAKER (63) ­

Hellberg 2 1-2 6, Keller 2 2-2 7, Younger 6 2-2 16, Zikmund 0 0-0 0, Carter 2 2-2 6, Nemec 2 0-0 4, Ramos 5 6-8 16, Benson 2 2-2 8. Totals 21 15-18 63.

Baker 13 18 15 17 — 63

Crook County 0 6 0 2 — 8

Three-point baskets — Hellberg, Keller, Younger 2, Benson 2. Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Crook County 13, Baker 6. Technicals — none.

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