The Gladiators get even with Baker and earn a berth in the state quarterfinals for only the second time in school history
by: roland simmons, Gladstone High School roundballers had plenty to celebrate following their 54-42 Class 4A state playoff win over Baker.

GLADSTONE - The third time was a charm for Gladstone's girls basketball team Saturday, as the top-ranked Gladiators thrilled a large enthusiastic home crowd with a convincing 54-42 win over Greater Oregon Conference runner-up Baker.

The win advanced the Gladiators (23-1) to Oregon State University's Gill Coliseum and the Class 4A State Tournament, where they'll meet ninth-ranked Marist (20-6) Thursday at 8:15 p.m. in a quarterfinal match-up.

It's only the second time in school history that a Gladstone girls basketball team has advanced to the state quarterfinals. The last time was in 1998, when the Gladiators fell to Cascade in the quarterfinals and failed to bring home a trophy.

The Gladiators had come up a game short of making the state tournament the past two seasons, yielding to Baker 48-40 last season, and to Ontario 54-38 two years ago. Cold shooting had cost the Gladiators in both losses, as they missed early baskets and built themselves big deficits.

The way last Saturday's game started out, it appeared that it might be a repeat of the last two seasons. The Gladiators missed their first seven attempts from the field and they trailed 6-1 four minutes into the game.

'I was thinking, I hope it doesn't go the same way,' said senior co-captain Tasha Dearborn. 'But when the score was close at the end of the first quarter, I knew we'd be in the game all the way.'

'In our last game we were down 15 and came back, so I wasn't worried,' said Gladstone senior co-captain Annan Applebee.

Nikki Ramsey hit a 3-pointer, Emily Tsugawa scored on a lay-up and jumper, and Jones scored on the fast-break and on a baseline drive to rally the Gladiators to a 12-10 lead by late in the first period.

But the Bulldogs didn't give up without a fight. Going inside to Jessie Wittich, a big-boned 5-10 post, they moved back on top and continued to lead through most of the first half.

But the Gladiators continued to battle. Robin Greer sank a pair of free throws just before halftime to trim Baker's lead to 26-25 heading into the locker room at the break.

The Gladiators' greater depth began to take its toll in the second half. Their relentless, hounding full-court pressure created seven turnovers in the first 5-1/2 minutes of the third period.

Jones hit a jumper to start the second half and Lisa Terry added a 3-pointer a short time later.

Dearborn followed up Bulldog turnovers with back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Gladiators were in the driver's seat, leading 36-28 less than two minutes into the third period.

Guarded front-and-back by Gladstone defenders, Wittich rarely got her hands on the ball in the second half.

Dearborn drove the nails deep in the Bulldogs' coffin near the midpoint of the fourth quarter when she hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game to make it 46-36, and the game was in hand.

Dearborn tallied 15 points to earn team-high scoring honors.

Tsugawa (11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) came off the bench to lead Gladstone to a 32-27 advantage on the backboards. The 5-4 sophomore was 4-of-6 from the field.

'Emily had a fantastic game!' said Gladstone coach Jere Applebee. 'She kept us in the game in the first half, when we couldn't get the lid off our basket.'

Jones tallied 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting; Terry added 8 points. Jones had a team-high 4 assists.

Shanoaleigh Roseby (4 steals), Terry (3 steals) and Tsugawa headed the Gladiator defense, as the Glads forced 23 turnovers. Baker was only 5-of-22 (.227) from the field in the second half.

Wittich and all-conference guard Katy Sullivan headed the Bulldog offense with 15 points apiece, but they combined for only 10 points in the second half. Baker all-conference post Kate Vaughan scored 10 in the losing effort.

For the eighth-ranked Bulldogs (20-4), it was their only loss this season to a team other than Greater Oregon Conference champion Ontario.

'We ran out of gas,' said Baker coach Tim Smith. 'Our legs were a little heavy in the second half.

'Gladstone's a good basketball team and I think they've got a bright future at Gill [Coliseum]. I wish them all the best!'

Smith coached the Bulldogs to fifth place at last year's state tournament.

It was the 14th win in a row for the Gladiators, whose 23-1 record makes them the winningest girls basketball team in school history. The previous most wins came in 1996, when a Gladstone team went 22-7 and won the Class 3A consolation championship. No other Gladstone team has won a trophy at a girls state basketball tournament.

The victory was huge for Gladstone seniors Jones, Dearborn and Annan Applebee, who have played major roles on Gladstone teams that have earned an unprecedented three consecutive league titles.

'I'm just so excited!' said Jones. 'And I'm so proud of everyone. Everyone played hard, and everyone contributed.'

'It's amazing!' said Applebee. 'It's a great way to end your senior year.'

'After these last two years of barely missing it, our hard work has finally paid off,' said Dearborn. 'It's a great feeling!'

'I'm absolutely thrilled for these kids, because they've worked so hard,' said coach Applebee. 'But mostly because they are good kids - in the classroom and in the community. They are good kids, and they deserve everything they've accomplished.'

Applebee said he believes his charges will fare well at the upcoming state tournament.

'I like our chances,' he said. 'Playing on a longer floor and playing back-to-back days, I think our depth will be a factor that will play in our favor.'

'I think we can go all the way,' said Dearborn. 'We all want to do it. We're going to put our hearts and minds into it, and do our best.'

'We want to go all the way,' said Jones. 'We want to come out of it with a trophy.'

Sky-Em Conference champion Marist, the Gladiators' first state-tournament opponent, met three Capital Conference teams in preseason, defeating North Marion 46-38 and La Salle 58-36, and losing to Stayton 59-43.

'I don't know a lot about them yet,' coach Applebee said Sunday morning. 'The only game films I've seen of them so far were in preseason. It looks like they try to get the ball inside.'

Should the Gladiators get by the Spartans on Thursday, they'll meet fourth-ranked Scappoose (21-4) or Far West Conference champion North Bend (16-7) in a semifinal game scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Gladstone defeated Scappoose 57-53 in a Dec. 8 game at Scappoose.

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