Banks uses its depth and conditioning to shred La Salle's full-court pressure in a runaway 63-33 non-league victory

La Salle's basketball identity centers around relentless full-court pressure from the opening tip to the final buzzer, harassing opponents into playing a frenetic, fast-paced style that most teams can't match.

Five minutes into the second quarter of last Wednesday's game against Banks, the Falcons unexpectedly pulled out of their full-court press. The reason? The Lady Braves had sliced it to ribbons, using precise passing and some smothering defense of their own to build a double-digit lead that ballooned to 24 points by halftime.

'We got it going pretty early. We definitely had the best four quarters we've had so far this year,' Banks head coach Nick Rizzo said of his team's eventual 63-33 rout of last year's Class 4A state runners-up.

'We weren't necessarily scoring a lot out of our press break, but it just didn't seem to bother us. We took care of the basketball and were able to get into our half-court offense pretty easily. More than anything, it just seemed like (La Salle was) expending a lot of energy and not getting a lot out of it.'

The Falcons (5-2) never recovered from Banks' early onslaught. In fact, it was the Lady Braves' own high-energy defense that set the tone for the game, with Banks (3-1) getting 23 steals and making it extremely difficult for La Salle to run its usual offense.

'We were a nightmare on defense for those guys,' Rizzo said. 'We made it really tough to score, and on offense we played some really entertaining team basketball.'

All totaled, Banks had 10 different players score in the victory, led by 15 points from Samantha Duyck, 12 from Marla Gooding and nine from Abby Hardie.

'La Salle plays kind of a run and gun, helter skelter style of basketball, and it can be hard to prepare for that,' Rizzo said. 'But we had a couple good practices before the game and I thought we handled it extremely well.'

Last Wednesday's win came on the heels of a victory at the Braves' own holiday tournament, where they hosted Gaston, Sheridan and Rainier on Dec. 9-10.

Banks hammered Sheridan 54-20 in the first round of the tournament, getting contributions from nine different players. Riley Gerlinger led the Braves with 12 points, while Kaylin Vandomelen, Melissa Masters and Lauren Birr each had eight.

In the championship game against Rainier, the Lady Braves trailed by three points at halftime but erased that deficit by the start of the fourth quarter, then surged to an 11-point lead before securing a 56-51 victory.

Hardie had a huge night for Banks, scoring 23 points to go with nine rebounds and six steals.

'She put on a little bit of a show in that game,' Rizzo said. 'Abby had the big game, but she was able to do that because of how deep we are. We were able to keep her fresh.'

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