Baker boys basketball

Baker’s Jake Wright, center, battles Vale’s Dawson Lunt for the ball Saturday in the Baker gym.

Caden Long leaped high and threw down a slam dunk that left the backboard shaking for several seconds.

Less than 30 seconds later Long rejected a Vale shot in the lane.

And on Baker’s next possession Long whipped a pass to Jamisun Rigueiro, who swished a three-pointer from the left wing.

This brief sequence in the third quarter epitomized Baker’s dominant 71-43 win over Vale Saturday night, the Bulldogs’ third home game in three nights.

Baker won two of the three games.

Baker not only showed no ill effects from its hectic schedule, but the Bulldogs had their most potent first quarter of the season Saturday, taking a 25-13 lead over the Class 3A Vikings.

Long had 14 of his game-high 20 points in the fast-paced first period. Baker coach Jebron Jones called for a full court press early in the game and the defensive pressure yielded a few steals that led to fastbreak layins.

Riley Flanagan, Baker’s high-flying senior, had one of the breakaways. He also was fouled while making a three-pointer, barely missing a four-point play when his free throw rolled off.

Flanagan said the speedy style that prevailed early against Vale suits the Bulldogs.

“We’re not the biggest team, but we’re faster than the majority of the teams we play,” he said. “Nothing defeats a team more than when they just can’t keep up.”

Flanagan, who added 17 points, put on a display of his jumping ability, scoring most of his baskets in the lane, including a pair of rebound putbacks that are his specialty.

“The easiest way for me to get points is to crash the boards,” Flanagan said. “I’m always looking for that second chance.”

After taking the 12-point lead after the first quarter, Baker went on an 8-2 run to start the second quarter. Vale never got closer than 16 points after that.

Jones said he anticipated his team might be a bit worn out after playing the previous two nights, so he got minutes for all 10 players on the bench.

The strategy paid dividends, as nine Bulldogs scored at least 3 points.

“I wanted to get everybody playing time and rest,” Jones said.

Although he was happy with Baker’s 25-point first quarter, Jones said the frenetic style is not what he encourages.

“We can’t sustain that pace,” he said.

Two nights after scoring a career high 32 points in a 71-61 win over Weiser, Baker point guard Gabe Gambleton did more damage Saturday with his creative passing. Gambleton had at least 8 assists to go along with his 7 points.

“He did a great job tonight,” Jones said of Gambleton.

More than half of Baker’s baskets came on assists.

Gambleton had assists on three straight Baker hoops in the second quarter.

“We make a point of emphasis to share the ball,” Jones said. “We had good ball movement and good player movement, and that leads to easy baskets. Overall we took better shots tonight.”

Flanagan said passing was an emphasis during practices last week.

“We really showed that today,” he said.

Jones wasn’t as pleased with Baker’s defense.

“We allowed them to penetrate too easily,” he said. “We can’t do that and expect to win against better teams.”

As Baker (8-6 overall) prepares to open Greater Oregon League play Friday at La Grande, Jones said he was glad his players finished the three-game home stretch with a win that he acknowledged was fun for them.

“Deep down I think they know the potential is there to do something special,” he said.

VALE (43)

Diaz 3 1-1 7, Kelso 2 0-0 6, Kolton Kurata 0 0-0 0, Gregory 2 2-2 6, Kade Kurata 0 2-2 2, Wolfe 5 2-2 12, Kesey 5 0-0 10. Totals 16 7-7 43.

BAKER (71)

Younger 2 0-0 4, Gambleton 3 0-0 7, Flanagan 8 0-3 17, Robb 3 1-2 7, Rigueiro 1 0-0 3, Wright 1 1-1 3, Shirtcliff 0 0-0 0, Long 9 1-1 20, Smith 2 0-0 4, Van Arsdall 3 0-1 6. Totals 31 3-8 71.

Vale 13 6 13 11 — 43

Baker 25 18 10 18 — 71

Three-point baskets — Gambleton, Flanagan, Rigueiro, Long, Kelso 2. Total fouls — Vale 13, Baker 11.

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