The Baker girls basketball team rebounded from a season-opening loss at Nyssa to beat Vale 51-27 in the home opener Tuesday, June 1 in the Baker gym.
Baker coach Mat Sand said he pushed the Bulldogs to improve their rebounding, a weak spot in the 43-41 loss to Nyssa, in which Baker squandered a 13-point lead.
“Last game we didn’t rebound well, this game we did, we turned that around,” Sand said. “Second thing was executive defensively and executive offensively, we showed vast improvements from last time.”
On Tuesday, Baker (1-1) took the lead early and extended the advantage to 13 points at halftime.
Vale stayed within reach thanks to junior forward Kailey McGourty, who scored 17 points.
“We just tried to put a fresh person on her (McGourty), and try to stay tight, and she knocked down some shots,” Sand said.
Baker’s sophomore post, Jozie Ramos, was among the Bulldogs tasked with guarding McGourty.
Ramos said Baker struggled at times with communication on defense.
“Sometimes we would lose where she was, and we were always trying to have someone on her, annoying her so she couldn’t get her shot off,” Ramos said.
Baker scored 16 points in the third quarter, the most in any quarter, to extend its lead to 25 points.
Ramos said she was excited to see the team’s confidence rise during those eight minutes.
“The third quarter is the turning point in most games because it’s right after halftime, and we were trying to focus on getting our energy up, and playing as a team,” said Ramos, who led Baker with 15 points.
“She plays hard and she’s a talent, so the thing that she learns to deal with is she is going to get double-teamed, and she did well,” Sand said of Ramos.
On the other end of the court, meanwhile, Baker held Vale to just four points in the third period.
Sand cited the teamwork that went into that performance, with the Bulldogs feeding off the defensive intensity of senior guard Sydney Keller.
“She’s (Keller) going to bring the defense into it, and create stuff for us that no one else will, that’s part of her senior leadership, that’s why she’s a captain and that’s why she’s playing,” Sand said.
Baker breezed through the final period, maintaining its sizable lead.
Sophomore Makenzie Flanagan scored eight points.
With the condensed nature of this basketball season, Sand recognizes that with a roster including nine sophomores and two freshmen, the season is a “maturation process.”
He believes the team is destined for greatness in the future, and he wants to take this opportunity, despite its brevity, to help his players learn how to excel at the varsity level.
“This team has a high IQ together because they’ve played together so long,” Sand said. “Once we get our conditioning and our timing in place, we are going to see some really fun basketball.”
Baker continued its busy week — three games in as many days — by playing host to Powder Valley on Wednesday, then traveling to Ontario this afternoon, June 3.
Results from those games will be published in the Saturday, June 5 issue of the Baker City Herald.