Banks relies on its stingy defense to post a 37-30 league victory against Scappoose

NEWS_TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks senior Amy Hilger gets double-teamed by a pair of Scappoose defenders during last Friday's Cowapa League girls basketball game.The game was close, but the winning formula held for the Banks girls basketball team.

Facing Scappoose at home last Friday, the Braves stuck to the modus operandi that has worked so well for them this year — play suffocating defense, keep the score down and cobble together enough points to win.

The result was a 37-30 Braves victory. Significantly, Banks has yet to lose a game this season when it holds its opponent to fewer than 40 points.

“It wasn’t a win by a landslide,” admitted Amy Hilger, who aided the home team’s efforts with nine points. “We just kept fighting the whole game.”

A win is a win, though, no matter how it is earned. Led by Megan Bunn, who scored a game-high 10 points, the team improved to 10-5 overall and 2-0 in Cowapa League play, propelling it closer a pivotal matchup against Seaside this week.

Against the Indians — though the Braves had led most of the way — the outcome was still in doubt when a Jenny Vardanega putback drew the visitors within 31-30 with a bit over two minutes remaining.

But that stout defense shut out Scappoose from there, and Lauren Birr went 4-for-6 from the free throw line the rest of the way to seal the victory.

The relatively tight game did not surprise Banks coach Brandon Begley.

“They’re much improved from last year, so we thought it would be ... this kind of game,” Begley said about the Indians. “We thought they’d come in and they’d battle, and they would switch up defenses and do that kind of stuff, so we were kind of expecting a game similar to that.”

Indeed, Scappoose worked hard throughout to stay in the contest, and the Braves never did build more than a 10-point lead — at 29-19 on the second of two long jumpers by Hilger in the third quarter.

That being said, Banks did control play throughout, trailing just twice early in the second quarter and holding an answer to each and every Scappoose run. For much of the game, the advantage hovered around five or six points.

“We felt comfortable and we’ve gotten so much better at playing with a lead that in that situation, our girls take care of the ball, and they just do a great job out there,” Begley noted.

That skill was critical on a night in which Banks did not shoot incredibly well, going 13-for-37 (35.1 percent) from the field. The Braves saw a number of good looks at the basket miss, and they did not do themselves any favors by going 8-for-15 from the foul line.

But they got the big buckets when they mattered, such as those jump shots by Hilger.

While the senior guard and defensive standout scored eight of her nine points in the middle two quarters, Bunn spread her 10 throughout the contest. None of her tallies were more important than her final two, which came via an Ariel Slifka pass and put Banks up 33-30 with 1:15 to go.

“We were definitely putting pressure on them, getting them tired a little bit,” said Bunn, who also contributed nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks to Banks’ cause.

“And then when it got back to the offensive end, we worked hard trying to get inside. That’s where we’re strong, in the inside.”

So even though Banks managed just two field goals in the fourth quarter, it held on for the win, shutting out Scappoose in the final minutes thanks in part to that stingy defense, one that forced 16 Indians turnovers, including 12 steals.

“I love defense,” said Hilger, who picked Scappoose’s pockets five times. “That’s probably my favorite part of the basketball game, just trying to get tips. Our zone, everyone supports each other.”

Birr added seven points in the victory, while Slifka and Madison Soper chipped in four apiece. Haley Wight and Brittany Catlow led a total of nine Indians in the scoring column with five points each.

Banks was scheduled to hit the road Tuesday for a game against Astoria. Results were not available at press deadline.

On Friday, the Braves are at Seaside, a team that entered this week at No. 4 in the OSAA Class 4A power rankings and, like Banks, 2-0 in the Cowapa League. Assuming both teams took care of their Tuesday games, the contest gives the winner the inside track to the league title.

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