Gerry Steele
The Baker City Herald

When Baker takes the court against Banks Thursday afternoon at the Class 4A state girls basketball tournament in Forest Grove, the Bulldogs will do so with a historic season on the line.

Baker, ranked fourth in the 4A rankings, enters the 3:15 p.m. game at Pacific University with a 21-1 record, the best mark in the 4A.

The Bulldogs’ only loss came back on Dec. 19 at Vallivue, Idaho. Since then the Bulldogs have won 16 straight games. In fact, Baker has not lost in the state of Oregon this season.

Baker is averaging 62 points a game, while giving up 37 points an outing.

The two-time Greater Oregon League champion returns all but two players from the team that advanced to state a year ago.

Baker will be trying for its highest-ever finish in state. The Bulldogs were fourth in 2000 and fifth in 2006.

Mat Sand took over as coach in the fall of 2015, and the core of this year’s team has played for him since that time.

“When I took over the job, I tried to create an atmosphere, a technique that fit the kids,” Sand said.

The key players on this year’s team are seniors Kaeli Flanagan, Rose Gwillim, Emily Carter, Calli Ward and Desi Davis, junior Jayme Ramos and sophomore Sydney Younger.

“The core group likes each other,” Sand said. “They do exceptionally well in school. Most of the seniors pretty much are wanting to go on both academically and athletically.

“The core group set a standard. They believe in the system. The coaching staff, middle school coaching staff and the grade school coaches have all bought into the system.”

Younger players being worked into that system are Anna Carter, Isabella Nemec, Lauren Benson and Sydney Keller.

“I just want to compliment all the girls on their willingness to adjust,” Sand said. “This team is special — how they play the game and accept what we ask them to accept. They’re unique.

“And, our community support and parental support has just been off the charts. It’s just fun to be a part of it.”

Banks, the Cowapa League champion and ranked fifth in the 4A, enters the game at 23-2. The Braves average 57 points a game while giving up 36.

The tournament championship game is scheduled at 3:15 p.m. Saturday at Pacific.