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Braves rock the Rose Garden


Banks girls turn up the heat on defense in a runaway win against Estacada

Forgive the Banks girls basketball team if they’re a bit weary after a week that featured one game under the bright lights of the Rose Garden, followed by three straight games at the North Marion Holiday Tournament.

“It was a busy week,” said Banks head coach Nick Rizzo. “Four games in five days was a bit of a grind. I’d rather be practicing because we’ve still got a lot of things to work on.

“But it was still a good experience for us.”

It was an up and down week for the Lady Braves, beginning with Tuesday’s game against Estacada at the Rose Garden. After falling behind 11-3 in the first quarter, Banks turned up the defensive intensity and limited Estacada to just four points over the final three quarters, surging to a 44-15 victory.

“We were a little upset after the first quarter,” Rizzo said. “The bright lights and big stage kind of threw us for a loop. We were trying to turn into NBA stars, taking deep threes and doing other stuff that we don’t usually do. But we adjusted quickly, and it started on the defensive end.”

Riley Gerlinger had a team-high 14 points for the Braves, and she singlehandedly sparked the comeback with a 10-0 run all by herself in the second quarter.

“She put the team on her back and got things going,” Rizzo said.

Samantha Duyck added nine points for Banks, which had nine different players score in the victory.

That set the stage for the North Marion tournament, where Banks drew a tough first-round matchup against Evergreen (Wash.), a Class 4A opponent out of Vancouver.

“I don’t think we were able to show our true colors. We knew we were going to have to play against good competition, and we didn’t quite bring it like we usually do,” Rizzo said of his team’s 60-43 loss to Evergreen.

“Our goal was to (win in the first round and) get a rematch against Sutherlin. It didn’t happen, but we got all of the kids tons of playing time, and we bounced back well after that first game.”

The Lady Braves struggled against Evergreen and talented point guard Dejanique Nicholas, who poured in a game-high 27 points and added six assists and six steals.

“We just couldn’t contain her, no matter what we did,” Rizzo said. “She’s one of the quickest players I’ve ever coached against.”

The loss sent Banks to the tournament’s consolation bracket, where the Braves took out their frustration on a pair of overmatched opponents, hammering Roosevelt 69-24 on Friday and spanking Cowapa League rival Astoria 59-17 on Saturday.

Gerlinger led Banks with 15 points against Roosevelt, while Kaylin Vandomelen chipped in nine more. Aubrey Rue had 12 points in the game, and she finished the tournament with a team-leading 23 rebounds.

The Braves didn’t have any double-digit scorers against Astoria, but all 10 players who saw the court found their way into the score sheet. That game featured another dominant defensive performance by Banks, which went on a 21-0 run in the second quarter and led 39-4 at halftime.

“We gave them fits on the defensive end,” Rizzo said. “At first I could tell that the girls weren’t very excited to be in the consolation bracket, but we decided to use it as a chance to make a statement to the rest of the league, and I think we accomplished that.”

The Lady Braves currently own a 6-1 record, but they are entering perhaps the toughest stretch of their schedule, with non-league games this week against No. 2 La Salle and Central, plus the Cascade Holiday Tournament, where potential matchups loom against No. 6 Cascade and No. 11 Gladstone.

“This could be a real tough stretch for us,” Rizzo said. “I think we’ll find out if we can make a run this year or if we’re just another team on the outside looking in.

“I think this stretch will really test us.”