PENDLETON - A smothering full-court press, accuracy from behind the arc and an 18-7 lead after the first quarter had the Pendleton girls' basketball team looking like they would run away with another win as they hosted Baker Tuesday at Warberg Court.
Despite an early propensity toward following big quarters with sloppy play, the Bucks won their previous three games by an average of 28 points - including an 18-point win over Baker to open the season.
But as turnovers again became the dominant stat line, the Bulldogs took the Bucks all the way to the wire in a 50-47 Pendleton win.
"With a young team we're going to see those playing good, then playing bad inconsistencies," coach Ryan Sams said. "Our bigs weren't blocking out and when our bigs don't block out we can't run because we don't have the ball."
Although the Bucks (4-0) didn't have much to take away from a win in which they committed 32 turnovers, were outrebounded 38-18 and made just 8-of-22 free throws, they could come away feeling good about senior Alexis Doutre's return to the hardwood.
In her first game back following ligament surgery to her knee, Doutre played roughly 10 incident-free minutes and scored four points.
It was a pair of free throws from Doutre that iced the win for the Bucks, but only after she came up empty at the line seconds earlier.
After Baker's Tara Talbott scored a layup off her seventh offensive rebound of the second half to make it 48-47 with 16.4 second left to play, Doutre was fouled on the inbound pass.
She missed both her bonus shots and Talbott pulled down her game-leading 14th rebound, hitting guard Mackenzie Warner with an outlet pass just before she fell to the floor.
Warner moved the ball up the middle of the floor but before Baker (1-2) could set up their offense and go for the lead, Pendleton sophomore Jessica Simpson caught her from behind and knocked the ball into Doutre's arms.
Baker fouled Doutre again, this time with 7.4 seconds left to play.
She sank both shots and the Bulldogs threw the ball away for their 36th turnover of the game as they tried to move up the floor for a last-second three-pointer.
"I got frustrated after my first two and then I got a second chance and I just knew I had to get it done," Doutre said. "(My knee) actually felt pretty good. It's getting better. It felt good to get out and start playing again. Hopefully after our next few practices I'll be able to start playing more this weekend. It definitely depends on how fast I get in shape."
"That was huge. That's what seniors do though," Sams said of the late buckets. "We're just trying to work her in until league starts; until the knee gets strong and full strength."
Sam McCloud had another huge night for the Bucks, leading them with 21 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and seven steals. She also led the team with 10 turnovers, though, something Sams said will happen in their fast-paced offense but still needs to happen less.
"Sam played well," he said. "We're trying to get below that 25 mark (for turnovers) and we're up in the thirties and we need to get it down so we can get more shots."
Simpson ended the game with nine points and seven steals.
Baker was led by Talbott and Whitney Phillips' 11 points each.
Pendleton guard Makayla McKay left the game in the fourth quarter after taking an elbow to the forehead. She went to St. Anthony Hospital as a precaution to check for a concussion.