Banks senior picked to 4A first team

One of the best.

That is the position in which Riley Gerlinger finds herself after having been named to the all-state first team for Class 4A girls basketball last week.

“I was incredibly surprised because I knew … my stats weren’t that great,” the self-effacing Banks senior said of her reaction to being chosen one of the top five players in the state in her classification for the 2012-13 season. “I knew that I had such great teammates that I never thought that this award could have been in my name. I never would have guessed this.”

The 5-foot-10 Gerlinger was named to the first team along with Mazama senior Hannah Reynolds — who was named the 4A player of the year — La Grande senior Breanna Partney, Cascade senior Kassi Sanders and Sutherlin sophomore Miranda Mendenhall. All-state teams were determined by vote among the state’s coaches and compiled by The Oregonian.

“She’s kind of a kid that’s flown under-the-radar for a long, long time, and she just kind of came out of nowhere to the state this year,” Banks coach Nick Rizzo said. “We knew as a staff coming into this year that this would be her breakout year and she’d surprise people. I wasn’t sure if she’d make first team all-state. I thought if we had a lot of success this year that she’d maybe have a chance, but it was a pleasant surprise for her and I and the program in general.”

Playing at the “four” position for Banks, a position Rizzo described as a “post/wing hybrid,” Gerlinger averaged 10.5 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 3.5 points per game this season and was named the Cowapa League Co-Player of the Year along with Seaside’s Emily Becker. Gerlinger helped the Braves post a 22-5 overall record, go undefeated in league play, and reach their third consecutive state tournament in Corvallis. After a tough loss to La Grande in the quarterfinals, the team rebounded to win its first consolation game against Junction City before falling to La Salle Prep of Milwaukie and settling for sixth place.

While her statistics were solid though maybe not gaudy on a talented, deep and senior-laden squad — Gerlinger was one of seven seniors on the roster — she distinguished herself with her play on both sides of the ball. On offense, Rizzo said, Gerlinger liked attacking and getting to the hoop with the ball and she had good footwork that allowed her to be a consistent finisher. But she also defended tenaciously.

“I’m assuming what the rest of the state saw, the state coaches saw, is that … she is a very, very good all-around player,” Rizzo noted. “One of her greatest strengths for us is what she did defensively for us. She just caused a lot of havoc up top of our zone and got a ton of deflections and steals. She just made it very hard for teams to run their regular offensive sets because of what she did up there with her length and how we played her up there. I think the coaches saw that and saw how important she was to us on that end.”

For Gerlinger, who was quick to mention the role her teammates, coaches, friends and family played in her success, getting back to the state tournament this season is a memory she will continue to carry with her.

“We almost not really took it for granted but didn’t really realize how great it was, in that how much work it really took to get there since we had the seniors above us,” Gerlinger said, referring to herself and her classmates. “And so this year it was just us, in that our team relied on us, and so it really meant a lot.”

Gerlinger also plays second base on Banks’ reigning state champion softball squad, but she said it is basketball she wants to continue to play in college. She had given Linn-Benton Community College a verbal commitment this winter, Rizzo said, but in mid-March the school announced it is dropping its baseball and women’s basketball programs as it aims to shrink a sizeable budget deficit.

That leaves Gerlinger looking for another place to play.

“I hope I get the opportunity to play at any school,” Gerlinger said. “I love the sport and so I’m just praying that something comes up that I’m able to play.”

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