Baker girls basketball

Baker's Lauren Benson drives against La Grande's Alexyss Chamberlain Friday.

With an upset brewing Friday night in the Baker gym and the La Grande

Tigers seizing the momentum, the Bulldogs relied on the experience

that propelled them to the 2019 state championship.

And on a budding star who was still in the middle school when Baker

won that title.

After La Grande’s Camryn Collman made a pair of free throws one minute

into the fourth quarter, the Tigers trailed just 31-29.

Baker’s 11-game winning streak over its Greater Oregon League rival,

which dates to Feb. 19, 2016, appeared to be in jeopardy.

But the Bulldogs responded with a 10-0 scoring run over 3 1/2 minutes

to vanquish the Tigers 46-36, extend the winning streak to a dozen

games and take a commanding 2-game lead over La Grande in the GOL

standings.

Freshman post Jozie Ramos, who had a team-high 16 points, scored 6 of

the 10 points on a pair of inside baskets and a 14-foot jumper.

The Bulldogs’ tournament-tested backcourt of Sydney Younger and Sydney

Keller supplied the other points, Keller with a rebound basket and

Younger, who has played in the state tournament each of her three

previous seasons, with a pair of free throws.

Ramos’ jumper gave Baker its biggest lead of the game, 41-29 with 2:31 left.

Collman scored 7 straight points to get La Grande within 41-36 with

1:23 left. But the Tigers were forced to foul, and Baker made 5 free

throws down the stretch, 3 by Younger, who scored 9 of her 14 points

from the foul line.

“We played three really great quarters of basketball,” Baker coach Mat

Sand said. “Our goal by the end of the season is to play four.”

The lone exception Friday against La Grande was the third quarter, when Baker was outscored 10-3.

Baker ended the second quarter with a 6-0 run capped by Lauren

Benson’s buzzer-beating three-pointer from the corner, a shot right in

front of the Baker student section that elicited a roar from the

Bulldogs.

Benson’s shot gave Baker its biggest lead to that point, 26-17.

La Grande junior post Ella Dunlap said the Tigers had a “team moment”

in the locker room at halftime, and the impromptu pep talk worked.

After Benson’s second three-pointer gave Baker a 29-19 lead two

minutes into the second half, La Grande ran off 8 straight points,

culminating with Collman’s three-point play on a rebound basket in the

final 15 seconds of the third quarter.

Sand said he wasn’t surprised by La Grande’s rally.

“Basketball is a game of momentum, and all good teams are going to

make runs,” he said. “We just needed to settle down and execute.”

Younger said the Bulldogs were tired and “a little flustered” during

La Grande’s third-quarter rally.

But the senior point guard said Baker regrouped during the

intermission before the fourth quarter.

“We said it’s time — we’ve put the time in and the work in, and we

know how to play,” she said. “We’re mature.”

Friday’s game between the 3rd-ranked Bulldogs and 5th-ranked Tigers

had the atmosphere of a playoff or tournament game, with a raucous

crowd in the bleachers and an intense, physical game on the court.

There were several scrums for loose balls that ended with multiple

players sprawled on the floor.

La Grande’s Grace Neer drew a technical foul after one such exchange,

which resulted in a held ball call and with Keller sliding across the

polished wood.

Although there were 40 fouls in the game, several of those came late

in the fourth quarter when La Grande was trying to stop the clock and

extend the game.

Sand said he was glad the officials allowed a certain amount of physical play.

“They let us play in a big game, and I like these kinds of games

because they just let you play basketball,” he said. “You just have to

adjust, and we did.”

Sand said Friday’s game was similar in some ways to Baker’s 42-35 win

at La Grande on Jan. 10.

“They’re a great team,” he said of the Tigers, who are the only Baker

opponent to top 30 points in the past eight games.

Sand said he was especially pleased with Baker’s defense in the key

against Dunlap, who scored just 5 points.

“We did a phenomenal job; I couldn’t have been happier,” Sand said.

Younger said close, intense games such as Friday’s win are invaluable

in helping Baker prepare for what it hopes will be a fourth straight

trip to the state tournament.

“They’re a very good team,” she said of La Grande.

Tigers coach Brian Wright said he thinks Baker is one of the favorites

to win a state championship.

And he believes his team has a good chance to compete for a trophy as well.

“These are two really quality teams,” Wright said.

Baker, which improved to 19-2 overall and 4-0 in the GOL, won its 10th straight.

La Grande is 11-6 overall and 2-2 in league play.

The Bulldogs have three regular season games left. Baker travels to

Milton-Freewater Saturday to play Mac-Hi at 3 p.m., travels to Vale

Feb. 13 for a nonleague game at 6 p.m. PST, and then finishes its GOL

schedule by playing host to Ontario Feb. 14 at 6 p.m.

LA GRANDE (36)

Collman 6 6-10 19, Reagan 1 0-0 2, Rinker 2 2-5 6, Orton 0 0-0 0,

Chamberlain 1 2-2 4, Kump 0 0-0 0, Neer 0 0-1 1, Williams 0 0-0 0,

Dunlap 2 1-2 5, Hutchins 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 11-20 36.

BAKER (46)

Keller 3 0-2 6, Younger 2 9-12 14, Zikmund 0 0-0 0, Carter 0 0-0 0,

Nemec 1 2-3 4, Ramos 6 4-6 16, Benson 2 0-0 6. Totals 14 15-23 46.

La Grande 10 7 10 9 — 36

Baker 15 11 3 17 — 46

Three-point baskets — Collman, Younger, Benson 2. Total fouls —

La Grande 21, Baker 19. Technical foul — Neer

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