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Lady Braves bring home a trophy

Young team rebounds after first-round loss to grab 6th-place honors in first-ever championship play
by: Chase Allgood Riley Gerlinger (left) and Morgan Birr of Banks battle for a loose ball against Madras.

CORVALLIS - One part of state tournament basketball that wasn't lost on the Banks girls: everything is bigger.

High stakes, tall opponents and a cavernous coliseum all played their part in rattling the Braves' first-ever trip to the OSAA 4A Girls Basketball State Championship in Corvallis.

But after dropping their first game to Madras, 41-27, Banks battled back to notch a win in the consolation round and finish sixth place in last week's tournament.

The Braves (20-8) beat Brookings-Harbor, 50-41 in their first consolation game before losing to Mazama, 42-36 in the fourth-place game.

Banks expected a tough match-up with Madras (20-8), which finished third in the tournament and lost only to eventual 4A champion Cascade. The White Buffaloes started three players that were 5-foot-11 or taller, including six-footer Abby Scott. Scott scored 11 of her game-high 13 points in a lopsided first half that saw Banks shoot 20 percent from the field and enter halftime down, 25-10.

'We went in against Madras knowing that Madras had a real bona-fide superstar,' Banks coach Tim Hardie said. 'Blame it on the coach. We probably should have gone (to man defense) earlier, but when you get to that level you go with what got you there.'

The Braves were also hampered by the flu entering their first-round game. Tim Hardie's daughter, Abby Hardie, had a 101-degree temperature the day before the state tournament and had to travel down separately to make the game. Riley Gerlinger was also dealing with the flu but started in place of Hardy against Madras.

Abby Hardie logged 20 minutes in the first-round game but was off-mark, going 1-for-8 from the field and missing all five 3-point attempts. The Braves only managed a combined 1-for-11 from three-point range against Madras.

'We usually get two or three (3-pointers) a game,' Tim Hardie said. 'We make a couple more, and it's a completely different game.'

Hardie said the nerves of the state tournament, and playing in 10,400-seat Gill Coliseum on the Oregon State campus, may have contributed to Banks' slow start.

But the team rebounded well from its opening-round loss and took advantage of a Brookings-Harbor team that had been physically worn out in an 18-point loss to Cascade. The Braves jumped out to an early 13-3 lead before foul trouble allowed Brookings-Harbor (24-3) to force a halftime tie.

Four of Banks' five starters had to sit out parts of the second quarter with foul trouble.

'Melissa Masters really helped keep us in the game, and the second unit got a ton of playing time and did a marvelous job holding the fort,' Hardie said. 'I felt our depth was really, really helpful.

'Melissa was the player of the game for us. We had 18 fouls in the first half and they had 11. ... We got it under control and our starters played the majority of the second half.'

Masters never left the game and finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three steals. But the turning point came in the third quarter when Banks opened with 10 straight points off two layups and two steals. The Braves won that quarter, 12-4 and held Brookings-Harbor to just 29 percent shooting from the floor to win and advance to the fourth-place game against Mazama (22-9).

Banks' third game came in a span of less than 48 hours, and the fatigue showed in both teams on the floor.

'For one, it was morning. Two, these girls haven't done three full games in three days,' Hardie said. 'It was somewhat of an equalizer against Mazama. I thought both teams were a little tired.'

Masters and Jessica Markham combined to score 25 points for Banks, which entered the fourth quarter with a two-point lead. Scoring went back-and-forth for most of the game, but in the fourth quarter Mazama started to pull away with solid shooting from the free-throw line.

The Warriors scored nine of their 15 fourth-quarter points from the stripe, including three in the last 12 seconds to put the game out of reach.

Hardie said the Braves were proud of themselves despite the loss. Markham, the lone senior on the squad, gave a locker room speech after the game to thank her teammates for a fun and gratifying season.

'I told them all they had to do was give 110 percent and we would be fine,' Markham recalled. 'It was really fun to lead them and be sort of the mom in the game.'

Both Mazama's and Banks' squads received trophies after the game, which was a big achievement for the the Braves.

'We'd never been at state before,' Hardie said. 'Not only just to get there, but also to come away with a trophy. … Suffice it to say, it was a great year.'

The success wasn't felt just among the girl's basketball team. According to Banks athletic director Wymon Smith, the unprecedented success in both girls and boys basketball this season has left an indelible mark in the school's hallways.

'The kids are excited, and the hallways are better, for lack of a better word,' Smith said. 'Everybody's positive about it.

'If it's not a real successful season, everybody goes about their merry way. When things are going well,' he said, 'the family, so to speak, sort of hangs around.'