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On a senior-laden team, one freshman stands out at the state tournament

Banks’ biggest asset heading into last week’s OSAA Class 4A girls basketball tournament was its depth and experience. With seven seniors on the roster, all of whom had played in the state tournament before, the Lady Braves set their sights on besting last year’s third-place finish.

That dream never materialized, however, as injuries depleted the team’s strengths and ultimately hastened its postseason demise.

While the end result was disappointing for the third-ranked Braves and their irreplaceable senior class, one byproduct of the rash of late-season injuries was the emergence of freshman Megan Bunn, a 5-foot-11 forward who had 28 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks in Banks’ three tournament games.

“She doesn’t play or act like a freshman out there,” Banks coach Nick Rizzo said. “She’s the real deal. People around the state should start talking about her next year. If they don’t, they’re blind.”

Pressed into increased playing time due to a broken thumb suffered by starting center Samantha Duyck and a sprained ankle suffered by starting forward Riley Gerlinger, Bunn played beyond her years against some of the top competition in the state.

In the Braves’ tournament opener against LaGrande, Bunn came off the bench to score 12 points and grab six rebounds in 17 minutes of action, almost singlehandedly pulling Banks back from a 13-point second-half deficit.

Two days later, in the fourth-place game against La Salle, Bunn again came off the bench and turned in a monster game with 14 points and 13 rebounds, showing off a diverse skill set that belied her age.

“We were able to pull close in that game, and a large part of it had to do with the play of Megan Bunn,” Rizzo said. “She kept us in that thing. She had a couple great games.”

Banks lost both of those games and finished sixth at the state tournament, and will graduate a senior class that accounted for 90 percent of the team’s scoring this season.

Still, optimism remains high in Banks, in large part because of Bunn, who was also a standout middle blocker on the Lady Braves’ volleyball team that finished third in the state this year.

“It’s going to take more than Megan Bunn to replace these seven seniors, but she’s a nice piece to build around,” Rizzo said. “After the tournament she was disappointed just like the seniors, but she’s excited to come back next year and hopefully get another shot at playing in the state tournament.”

Bunn will return next year, as will junior point guard Lauren Birr, but virtually every other member of the 2013-14 team will be untested.

“I’m going to meet with Megan and Lauren this week and get their thoughts on what we need to do and where we want to go,” Rizzo said. “Megan is going to have to play like a senior next year as a sophomore if we want to have a shot at getting back to Corvallis.”

While Rizzo is understandably reluctant to put too much pressure on Bunn’s shoulders, he is also understandably excited about the freshman’s potential.

“She’s an amazing athlete,” Rizzo said. “We’ve only scratched the surface of her potential. She’s going to be an unbelievable player if she’s willing to put in the work to get there.”

So what might fans expect from Banks’ rising star next season?

“With Megan, the things she brings to the table are scoring and rebounding. But, believe it or not, she actually has quite a bit of point guard experience,” Rizzo said. “She has the ability to take a rebound and then go baseline to baseline. Not a lot of other players her size can do that.

“Don’t be surprised if you see her play everywhere from center to point guard next year. We’re going to ask a lot of her, but I think she’ll be able to handle it.”

Zack Palmer can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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