Braves take second place at weekend tournament
Young Banks squad continues to show growth with a runner-up performance at their annual tournament
The learning curve is steep for any basketball team that graduates 11 players from the previous year's state tournament qualifying squad, but Banks is already showing signs of steady improvement in 2011.
The Braves hosted their annual holiday basketball tournament last weekend, and despite their relative youth and inexperience, the team split its two games to finish second in the four-team event.
Banks pulled away late for a 47-30 win over Sheridan in the first round on Friday, but dropped a 49-32 decision to a tough Rainier squad in the championship on Saturday. The results were mixed, but head coach Pat Marlia was pleased with his team's overall performance.
'We're really young, so our main emphasis has been on the defensive end,' Marlia said. 'We're trying to keep scores relatively low. We want to keep games close and hopefully in the fourth quarter we'll be able to knock down some shots and pull something out.'
The Braves (3-2) waited until the fourth quarter to pull away from Sheridan on Friday, leading 28-15 at halftime and allowing the Spartans to hang around for much of the third quarter.
'It took us a little while to pull away, but we finally did,' Marlia said.
Shea Rue, the only returning contributor from last year's team, led the way for Banks with 23 points despite sitting a good chunk of the fourth quarter due to illness. In his absence, senior post Mitch Evers stepped up with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor, plus nine rebounds and a game-high seven steals.
Rue's 23-point effort came on the back of a 28-point outburst against Vernonia on Dec. 3, and Rainier identified that trend early in Saturday's game and neutralized the Braves' top scoring threat.
Banks trailed 23-14 at halftime but trimmed the deficit to seven points going into the fourth quarter.
With Rue frequently double-teamed, however, Banks never found another offensive threat and the Columbians were able to pull away in the final stanza, eventually winning by 17.
'We were in it. We were trying to stick to our philosophy,' Marlia said. 'We just didn't hit some shots in the fourth, then we had to take some risks and they capitalized on our gambles.'
Evers finished with a team-high eight points for Banks, while Franklin Browning added six more.
'(Rainier) took Shea away, and teams are going to try to do that to us this year,' Marlia said. 'We talked about who's going to be the next guy to step up. That's our next big thing. All the way to league, we've got to find that second guy who can step up.'
The road doesn't get much easier for the Braves, who host fifth-ranked La Salle today and second-ranked Central next Tuesday.
'Those are potentially two of the top teams in 4A, so it will be a good test for our defense,' Marlia said. 'They both have the potential to score 80 (points) a night. Hopefully we'll be able to keep them low and play our game.'