Senior-led team shows grit after a 26-year absence from state tournament play

Pat Marlia's team has dealt with offensive lulls in the past.

Those dry spells weren't enough to keep the Braves from their first state championship appearance in 26 years. But its troubles finding the bottom of the basket caught up to the Banks boys basketball team in two quick losses at the OSAA 4A Boys Basketball State Championships at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.

The Braves had a tall order in their first-round match-up with top-seeded Mazama, which hadn't lost to an Oregon squad this season. Banks (17-11) fell in their championship opener, 54-38, and lost the next day in a consolation-round rematch against division-rival Tillamook, 60-54.

Mazama (28-2) finished third in the tournament. Tillamook (22-5) finished sixth.

Banks' return to the state championship bracket got off to a strong start. The Braves went back-and-forth with the Vikings and ended the first quarter down 16-13. But the Klamath Falls team burst out of the gates with an 11-1 run to open the second quarter of play, forcing Marlia to call a timeout down 27-14 with four minutes left in the half.

'We usually try to run some backdoor plays, but we weren't able to get it done in the second quarter,' Marlia said.

The Braves also struggled to guard Mazama's perimeter game, which used screens under the hoop to lose defenders and open up three-point shots. Those outside shooting opportunities were created in part by Marlia's desire to control Mazama's inside scoring.

'We weren't going to switch (defensive assignments) on the screens,' Marlia said. 'We knew (Mazama forward) Darius Jackson would be a big mismatch on one of our guards, so we focused on jumping to the ball and letting people pass through the screens. Some of those guys got hung up low in the key and freed (the Vikings' guards) up for some easy shots.'

Banks' Colby Seyferth was tasked with containing Jackson in the low post. Although the Klamath Falls star finished with nine points and seven rebounds, he shot an inefficient 3-for-10 from the field.

But Jackson's poor shooting was offset by strong guard play led by Daniel Mathis. The Braves' game plan going in was to attack Mathis on offense and put him in foul trouble.

Trask Bowden was Mathis' defensive assignment, and the Banks guard posted up on Mathis several times in the first half.

'We were told, 'If we could get (Mathis) on the bench and get other guys in there, you got a pretty good shot,'' Marlia said.

Bowden scored several times in the post and led Banks with 16 points, but he was unable to draw fouls from Mathis and force him from the game.

Banks closed the gap to 33-22 at halftime but saw that lead grow to 42-28 after the third quarter. Although the Braves used an effective half-court trap to force three straight turnovers to start the fourth, none led to points. Banks struggled to score under the pressure of time and Mazama pulled away for the win.

'The kids were disappointed, but they were pumped to have another game,' Marlia said. 'We'd been playing games the last two weeks that were basically lose and go home.

'They knew they had an opportunity,' he continued, 'and the team really wanted to play Tillamook.'

After dropping both regular-season match-ups with the Cheesemakers, Banks took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter.

But the Braves were also short-handed with Seyferth and Bowden on the bench with four fouls.

Tillamook took advantage and erupted for 25 points in the final period.

'We had to go about four minutes without Bowden and five minutes without Colby,' Marlia said. 'Shea (Rue) stepped up, (Jim) Criswell stepped up, but not having those guys really took some of our offense away.

'We did go a little bit on a run, but those guys getting in foul trouble in the second half really changed the game for us.'

Rue is the lone member of Banks' state tournament team that will return next season as 11 of its 12 tournament roster spots were filled by seniors.

Marlia made sure the junior knew how important his experience would be as Banks looks to make the state playoffs a part of its routine.

'He's got to be our leader next year,' Marlia said. 'Playing on this stage, it's something you can't replace.'

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