Banks girls regroup, focus on important softball season in 12
Upon further review
There's an expression used to describe chronically single women, something along the lines of: 'Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.'
After last weekend, that seems like a fitting description for the female athletes at Banks High School, and before you ask, no, it's not because they're all destined to become middle-age spinsters.
In case you missed it, the Banks girls made their second consecutive appearance at the Class 4A basketball tournament, beating Philomath on Saturday to finish third in the state. It was the Lady Braves' second third-place finish in a row after accomplishing the feat in volleyball last fall, and it was the sixth Top 10 finish in four years for this core group of female athletes, including 2010 state runner-up finishes in softball and volleyball.
For those who coach them and teach them, it's painful to see these girls come so close to their dream of a state title only to have it snatched away time and time again.
In 2010, it was the seventh-inning rally by Cascade to beat the Lady Braves 2-1 and steal the state softball championship.
The next fall, it was the buzzsaw of five-time defending state champion Crook County, which beat the Lady Braves in the state volleyball finals.
Last November, Crook County did it again, this time bouncing the Lady Braves in the semifinals of the state volleyball tournament.
And on Friday it was undefeated Sutherlin, which dashed the Lady Braves' title hopes with a gritty 39-32 victory in the semifinals of the state basketball tournament.
So close, and yet so far.
But if you ignore what the Lady Braves haven't been able to do and focus instead on what they have accomplished, it's staggering. In an era of overabundant sports specialization, where athletes spend all their time training for one particular pursuit, the Banks girls have performed at an extremely high level across a range of sports, from basketball to volleyball to softball.
'I think the biggest thing for me is that they don't specialize in any one sport, but they manage to compete at a high level against teams that do,' said Banks volleyball coach Suzanne Alley. 'They are just an incredible group of athletes, and it isn't just the senior class. They have really set the trend, but everyone else contributes.
'I think the younger kids are going to continue the trend. It won't end when these seniors graduate.'
Banks basketball coach Nick Rizzo has been equally impressed with these athletes while coaching a highly specialized sport.
'It's so, so difficult to win a state title. Basketball might be the toughest because you have someone guarding you at all times. It's an incredibly difficult skill sport for that reason,' he said. 'For these kids to do what they've done in multiple sports, it's just amazing.
'This group of kids, they were successful this year and they will continue to be successful as adults because of their work ethic and dedication and commitment. This is the most memorable group I've ever coached.'
Ditto for Banks softball coach Jenny Compton.
'It's amazing to think that we have a nucleus of kids that play multiple sports and have this level of success basically every year,' she said. 'We're just knocking on that door, waiting for one of these teams to win a state title, and it's cool that it could happen in any one of these sports.'
For the current crop of Banks seniors, however, the last chance to bring home a state championship will come this spring on the softball diamond. So will this be the season that Banks wins it all?
'That's something that the senior class has probably dreamt of doing in their high school careers, and this softball season is their last chance to do so,' Compton said. 'I think the girls will really be ready for softball.'
And yet, even if they don't win a title, these athletes will leave a lasting legacy at Banks High School.
'When I sit back and reflect on the accomplishment of these girls, it has been an amazing run,' said Banks athletic director Jim Smith. 'But the best thing about these student-athletes is they are darn great kids. They are coachable, they work hard, they are leaders. They give so much time to our community and help our school in all our events and fund-raisers for charity.
'Their accomplishments and the footprint they have left in their high school years will always be cherished by their families, coaches, staff and the community.'