Lady Braves bolster their credentials with a 48-46 victory over third-ranked La Salle

If the Banks girls basketball team needed a litmus test for its frenetic, suffocating full-court defense, the Lady Braves got it on Saturday against third-ranked La Salle.

The Falcons came into the game averaging 66.2 points per game — tops in the state among Class 4A teams — and had already soundly defeated sixth-ranked Cascade, one of only two teams to beat Banks so far this year.

And if those credentials weren’t enough to worry the Lady Braves, they surely must have felt anxious after La Salle opened a 10-point lead by the end of the first quarter.

“The kids were a little tight, maybe a little nervous,” Banks head coach Nick Rizzo said. “But we knew it would be a game of runs, and we really put the clamps on them (defensively), especially in the second and third quarters.”

Banks battled back within five points at halftime, then surged ahead with a 17-8 run in the third quarter, setting the tone for a 48-46 victory that squarely placed the Braves in the state title discussion.

Kaylin Vandomelen led Banks with 12 points, Samantha Duyck scored 10 and point guard Lexi Chung — in her second game back from a dislocated shoulder — finished with nine points and six assists.

The biggest bucket of the game, however, came courtesy of Aubrey Rue, who knocked down a three-pointer to break a 38-38 tie with less than four minutes remaining in the game. That gave Banks some breathing room, and the Lady Braves went 9-for-12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

“That was a big win for us,” Rizzo said. “La Salle is a good team. They lead the state in scoring, but I don’t think they’ve seen a defense like (ours) this season.”

Saturday’s big win came on the heels of a 45-31 victory over Scio, last year’s Class 2A state runner-up and currently the fifth-ranked team in the state after moving up to 3A.

“We didn’t really have any info on them, but we knew we’d have our hands full,” Rizzo said of Scio. “I hate to sound like a broken record, but the bottom line was that our defense played well and we kind of shell-shocked them. It was a slow, methodical game where we just slowly separated from them.”

For the fourth straight game, Banks had all nine players score, led by Vandomelen’s 11-point performance.

The Braves have one more tune-up before opening Cowapa League play against Yamhill-Carlton next Tuesday.

“We’ve got Gladstone this week and then league play starts next week,” Rizzo said. “I feel like we’re in a pretty good spot right now.”

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