A late addition to the schedule created a showdown between the top two teams in the OSAAtoday 4A girls basketball coaches poll Wednesday.
No. 1 Baker defeated No. 2 Gladstone 39-37 in a neutral-site contest at Stanfield Secondary School, located 194 miles from Gladstone and 115 from Baker City.
Baker, looking to fill out its schedule after canceling four home games due to road conditions, reached out to Gladstone. The schools agreed Monday to add the game, which matched the last two unbeaten teams in 4A.
Despite the sparse crowd, the game was played with playoff-type intensity. The Bulldogs (5-0) survived a furious late rally by the Gladiators (4-1) after leading by 13 points midway through the fourth quarter.
“We needed a game like this,” Baker coach Jason Ramos told the Baker City Herald. “We knew they were going to be good. I was really proud of the girls.”
Baker, which won its first four games against Idaho teams by an average margin of 30.5 points, bolted to a 12-3 lead behind senior guard Brooklyn Jaca and senior forward Jozie Ramos. The Bulldogs increased their edge to 19-8 in the second quarter on a three-pointer by Jaca.
Gladstone got three-pointers from sophomore Hailey Monte and seniors Rhyli Grim, Hanne Hopkins and Sam Jedrykowski in the second quarter to draw within 19-17 at half.
Baker senior guard Macey Moore scored a basket and hit a three-pointer to start the second half, pushing the lead to 24-17. When Moore scored on a lay-up with 3:31 left in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs were up 35-22.
But Gladstone rallied behind a smothering full-court press, getting to within 38-37 with 13 seconds to go. Moore split two free throws with 4.7 seconds left to make it 39-37, but Gladstone's final possession came up empty when Jedyrkowski collided with Moore and threw up a shot that wasn't close.
“They just got really aggressive,” Ramos said of the Gladiators, “and we turned the ball over too much. … We took care of the ball just enough down the stretch, and made just enough free throws.”
Jozie Ramos scored 12 points to lead Baker. Jaca scored nine points before leaving the game in the third quarter with a leg injury.
Gladstone got 11 points from Hopkins and eight from Monte.
On the strength of its suffocating 2-3 zone defense, Tualatin is off to a 4-0 start.
The No. 9 Timberwolves are holding opponents to a 6A-low 22.3 points per game, down from 33.0 last season, when they finished 14-11 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
They are forcing 28 turnovers per game and averaging 21 steals. They are limiting foes to 24.6-percent shooting, including 14.3 percent from three-point range.
Tualatin coach Wes Pappas, the architect of outstanding defenses as an assistant at Tigard and head coach at Sherwood, said the biggest difference this season is the team's improvement in rebounding. Senior Olivia Poulivaati (6-0), junior Jaylyn Arosemena (6-0) and senior Tabi Searle (5-11) are leading the way on the boards.
“All my great defenses of the past always were able to prevent teams from having second-chance opportunities, and this one looks to be starting on the right track with that,” he said.
The team's biggest asset is depth in the middle of the zone, according to Pappas. Poulivaati is back after missing last season with an injury and 6-0 freshman Alex Padilla has provided a boost.
“She's the real deal,” Pappas said of Padilla. “It feels like she is a superstar in the making in the middle of that zone for us.”
Tualatin has yet to play a team with a winning record, however. The Timberwolves will get tested in the days after Christmas in the POA Holiday Classic.
“We know that our level of competition will increase, but we also feel that we are just getting started,” Pappas said.
Oregon State-bound senior guard Donovyn Hunter was named the MVP of the Nike Iolani Classic in leading No. 4 South Medford to a runner-up finish in the tournament in Honolulu last week.
Hunter had 16 points and six steals in a 72-52 win over Konawaena (Hi.) and 25 points, 10 steals and 10 rebounds in a 59-49 win over previously undefeated Carondelet (Calif.). In the championship game, she scored 16 points as the Panthers fell 68-46 to Incarnate Word Academy of St. Louis, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps.
South Medford led Incarnate Word Academy after one quarter but fell behind by 20 points at half as the Red Knights, who have won 72 in a row, caught fire from three-point range.
Notes: Nyssa's Gracie Johnson, a 6-5 senior who has committed to Utah State, had 40 points, 11 rebounds and 12 blocks as the reigning 3A champion Bulldogs (5-0) topped Stanfield 50-42 in a tournament at Umatilla on Dec. 9. Nyssa is ranked No. 2 in the coaches poll behind Corbett. ... Top-ranked and reigning 5A champion Crescent Valley was pushed to overtime before emerging with a 55-52 home win over No. 7 Crater on Dec. 9. Senior guard Gabby Bland scored 32 points to lead the Raiders (4-0), who made 17 of 32 free throws. Sophomore guard Addison Dippel had 16 points, five rebounds, seven steals and three assists for Crater (2-4). Crescent Valley plays host to South Medford on Saturday afternoon. … Barlow, the 6A runner-up last season, is outscoring opponents by an average margin of 29.8 points in a 5-0 start. Senior guard Kennedie Shuler, an Oregon State commit, is averaging 21.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 4.6 steals. Senior guard Annie Koenig is averaging 19.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists. The No. 6 Bruins play at No. 8 Jefferson (1-1) on Friday.