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Braves emerge from a long slump to notch a pair of wins as they prepare for conference competition

by: CHASE ALLGOOD - Braves emerge from a long slump to notch a pair of wins as they prepare for conference competition.As the Counting Crows song goes, it was a long December for the Banks High School boys basketball team.

After winning their first game of the season over Taft on Nov. 28, the Braves went on a nine-game losing streak, failing to win a game during the month of December and the first week of January.

With his team playing a very difficult preseason schedule and walked off the court in defeat night in and night out, Banks coach Pat Marlia was concerned about how his players were handling the emotional toll of the losing streak.

“We played an extremely tough preseason,” Marlia says. “You kind of have to constantly remind the kids that four or five of the teams we played were top-10 teams. You can lose some games to top programs, but you really hope that your kids don’t throw the towel in.”

The Braves’ losing streak finally ended last Thursday in a home game against Southridge, a team from British Columbia.

Banks started the game hot, then trailed off in the second quarter.

“We had a great first quarter,” Marlia said. “We came out and scored 20 points. Then, in the second quarter, we scored five.”

The Braves were able to keep fighting, though. Tucker Sahnow scored 15 points, Nolan Hill and Garrett Markham scored nine points each and Banks got its first win since November, topping Southridge 57-47.

The joy in the locker room was intense.

“The kids were really excited,” Marlia says. “Going down into the locker room after the game, the kids were pumped. To be able to finally get to play against someone that wasn’t really one of the upper-echelon teams in the state at the 4A level was good for us. It was good for the confidence of the kids.”

Banks took that confidence and used it to pull off a 44-39 win over Gladstone the following night.

“With this group, just by winning that one game, they kind of got on a roll there and were able to close out that second game against Gladstone, which was great for the kids,” Marlia says.

This is how Marlia describes the win over Gladstone:

“We had a great defensive game in the second half. We did a real good job of limiting them to minimal points in the second half. It took us a while to get going, but as soon as the second half came around, we knocked some free throws down and were able to get some shots with penetration, and got some guys some easy buckets that way.

“Garrett Markham had a great game for us with 14 points. He went 7 for 8 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to help us keep up the lead.

“Jared Barger really stepped up in the second half and had some great layups and a couple of assists and finished with nine points, all in the second half.

“And Nolan Hill did a great job of handling the pressure as our point guard.”

Now that the Braves’ brutal preseason schedule is over, Marlia is confident that his club is ready to take on teams in the Cowapa League.

“Our league is not as tough as our preseason,” Marlia says. “That’s just a constant reminder that you have to tell the kids and make sure that they keep their heads up and that they’re ready for league.”

The Braves still have some kinks to iron out, specifically their difficulty putting together a complete game.

“We seem to be able to put together two or maybe even three and then we have one down quarter,” Marlia says.

“But we feel like we’re getting closer and closer to putting that together. And we really feel like we’re playing some good defense together throughout the whole game.”

If Banks can become more consistent throughout each game, then Marlia believes that league play will be much kinder to the Braves than was the preseason.

“In league, it can be anybody’s game every night,” Marlia says. “That goes for all six teams. Hopefully, we can get some of those games that are close. There are going to be a lot of close games this year.”