By Jeremy McDonald
FOREST GROVE, Ore.– The seventh-seed Stayton Eagles found a way to put the second seeded Baker Bulldogs on the ropes in Baker’s comeback from behind 42-36 victory over Stayton Thursday afternoon.
The Eagles led 31-21 entering the fourth quarter as their defense put them in a favorable spot to advance to the 4A State Semi-Finals in cooling down the Bulldogs offense, holding them to one third quarter point to open the lead.
“We did what we knew and that’s defense the first three quarters and then in the fourth quarter, we ran out of gas and lost our identity,” said Stayton’s KJ Nyquist. “It was a great lesson, we’re ready to bounce back tomorrow and make a stamp on this tournament.”
In the fourth quarter Baker’s D picked up the pace in hopes to see if they could work some magic and mount a comeback against the tough Eagles defense.
“It starts with defense and we told ourselves that if we grind it out on defense and that’ll lead to points and that’s what happened,” said Rose Gwillim.
Stayton held onto an 11-point lead with 5:46 remaining after Nyquist hit a jumper to put the Eagles up 34-23 with an ‘And-One’.
That would be the last basket for Stayton in the game, Nyquist went 2-for-2 at the line to make it 36-29 with 4:32 left in the game but the Eagles went 0-for-8 down the stretch as the Bulldog offense started to hit their shots from Rose Gwillim and Sydney Younger.
Younger hit a three to tie the game at 36 with 1:36 left in the game before Isabella Nemec hit a three with 1:07 left with the Bulldogs awaiting for the winner of Banks-Philomath Friday at 3:15pm at Forest Grove High School.
“It was definitely a good learning experience because we see how the refs are going to call the game and we can’t let that dictate how we’re going to play,” said Gwillim who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds in the win.
For the Eagles, they’ve been in this boat before last year. After falling to Cascade in the opening round in 2018, Stayton bounced back Day 2 as they finished sixth in the State and this year will be no different in their approach.
“Refocus. Do what we do and outwork everyone,” smiled Nyquist who finished with 18 points in the game.
Stayton plays again at 9am Friday morning.