BAKER — After a relatively uneventful first three quarters, the final period between No. 2 Baker and visiting No. 7 E.D. White made up for any loss of action Monday night.
The Cardinals trailed by as many as nine points late in the third quarter, but slowly chipped away at the deficit by scoring the final five points of the period to enter the fourth quarter trailing by just three.
E.D. White eventually made it a one-point game before giving up two late buckets in the closing seconds to fall to Baker 38-33 in a Class 3A girls basketball quarterfinal playoff game.
The win puts Baker (24-5) into the semifinals for the first time in three years, where it will play sixth-seeded Abbeville, who beat No. 3 Rayne, 45-41 Monday night.
“We’ve been trying to get there,” Baker coach Michael Stephens. said “We went to that state championship three years ago, and … we’ve had problems with this game for the last two years.
“This senior class has been with me since the state championship, but we fell short the last two years. So for that senior class to get a big win right here, it means the world.”
Baker never trailed, hitting three 3-pointers early in the first quarter to pull ahead 11-4. E.D. White answered with a 10-3 run to end the quarter, down 14-12. The score remained unchanged until halftime following a strange sequence.
E.D. White got the ball to start the second quarter, missing a shot that was rebounded by Baker.
The Buffaloes, who had two players — Jacquis Dodson and Ariane Addison — sitting on the bench with two fouls, took the ball just past halfcourt and began burning the clock.
The Cardinals sat back in a zone defense while Baker’s Anitra Whitfield dribbled near halfcourt for nearly seven and a half minutes.
“Two of my best players were on the bench in foul trouble,” Stephens said. “My rule is two fouls in the first half, you sit. I need three fouls for the second half. When he sat back in the zone, I figured, hey, I’ll keep two of my best players out of foul trouble, and we’ll just hold the ball.
“We were up two, it wasn’t like we were down. If we go into halftime up two, I’m happy, because then I get my best players back on the floor.”
While Stephens was pleased to be up two heading into the break, E.D. White coach Darin Fontz said he was just fine trailing by one basket entering the third.
“I didn’t expect it, to be honest with you,” Fontz said. “Everything I knew about Baker, they wanted to run and gun and score 70-80 points a game. But he decided to hold it out. We were assured of a two-point game, so we just sat back, and let them run the clock out. We have an ultimate respect for this Baker program, so we were happy to be at a two-point deficit at halftime with no foul trouble and rested going into the second half.”
The game remained close, thanks to 12 second-half points from E.D. White’s Jordan Gros. The senior recorded two steals and snagged six rebounds down the stretch to keep the Cardinals alive and led all scorers with 14 total points.
“I’ve got three seniors who played their last game tonight,” Fontz said. “They would have given it all up for a win tonight.”
“I know their hearts are broken right now, but they certainly have a lot to be proud of.”
On the other side, Baker’s Euqena James led the Lady Buffs with 12 points, followed by Whitfield, who nailed three 3-pointers for all of her nine points.