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Girls basketball: Banks caps tourney run with 51-28 trouncing of Brookings-Harbor

Braves' fourth-place finish is second-best in program history

HILLSBORO – Megan Bunn summed it up well.

“It’s definitely been a crazy three days, for sure,” the Banks senior said. “I think after Thursday, it’s definitely upsetting and depressing, but it just shows how close all of us are and how we keep each other up. We came in the next morning with a smile on our face and said, ‘Well, we got another game.’”NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - The members of the Banks girls basketball team gather together to touch their new fourth-place trophy after the Braves defeated Brookings-Harbor in the Class 4A consolation final on Saturday at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.

That Thursday game Bunn referenced was her Braves’ 37-29 loss to reigning champion Sutherlin in the Class 4A state quarterfinals. It was a difficult game to move past, but Banks did and ended its season on a fantastic note. A day after needing almost an entire game to sort themselves out in a win against Seaside, the second-seeded Braves started Saturday’s consolation final matchup against No. 5 Brookings-Harbor ready from the opening whistle.

Banks put together easily its best half of the tourney – and maybe its best all season – to race out to a 31-14 lead after two quarters and was never threatened in a 51-28 victory.

With that result, the Braves claimed fourth place, the second-best result in program history after the 2012 team, which finished third. Brookings-Harbon ended up sixth.

“We talked about, this team’s made so much school history,” Banks head coach Brandon Begley said. “We had the best defensive scoring average, which is incredible for Banks, that’s been a defensive team. Most wins in school history, had the highest seed coming into here, only the second team to win league. So they’ve done some incredible things and been definitely one of the best teams to come through Banks.”

News-Times photos: Kent Frasure

Especially early on, the Braves (24-4) played beautiful basketball, sharing the ball and hitting shots from all over the court. And even when the offense sputtered at times during the second half, the team continued to play well enough on defense that the Bruins (22-6) could not get anything going.

That first half was a thing of beauty, though, with Banks going 13-for-27 from the field. The Braves trailed just once, at 3-2, on a 3-pointer by Drew Farmer a minute-plus into the first quarter. After that, they quickly broke open the contest with a 10-1 run over a two-minute span in the middle of the period.

Jamie Borchers kicked off the streak with a 3-pointer before Ariel Slifka scored down low off a Bunn assist. Then Anna Klein put back a Slifka miss and freshman Aspen Slifka nailed a 3-pointer to lift Banks to a 12-4 advantage.

The Bruins, champions of the Far West League, never could recover. The younger Slifka pushed the lead to double digits late in the first with a layup off a steal, and her two free throws with 25.4 seconds left bumped the margin to 22-10. Those 22 points were more than the Braves scored through three quarters in their 47-36 comeback victory against Seaside on Friday.

Behind four points from Klein, Banks outscored Brookings-Harbor 9-4 in the second quarter to take that 31-14 lead into halftime.

“It was awesome,” Bunn said. “That was like the best half we’ve played all season and I’m glad it happened for the last game.”

Begley agreed with that assessment.

“I told them I think that’s – if not the best – it’s pretty close to the best we’ve played all year,” he said. “These girls, they just wanted to get out there. They still feel the effects of Thursday night. They wanted to go out on a positive note. Luckily, we built a big lead, because we didn’t play the greatest in the second half, but our defense was good enough that they never made a run.”

Indeed, while Banks wasn’t clicking on offense in the second half quite the way it had in the first, the Braves never led by fewer than 16 points and they enjoyed leads of 20 points or more for almost the entire fourth quarter.

The more guard-oriented Bruins struggled throughout to contain the Braves in the post, getting outscored in the paint 26 to 16. They couldn’t get much going from outside either, shooting just 2-for-20 from 3-point range over the course of the contest.

“We’ve played a lot of teams like them,” Borchers noted. “Like Molalla, we’ve played twice and then I guess Valley Catholic would also be that zone, because it’s just really fast-paced and a lot of cutting and screening. We were really used to it, so we were ready for the threes and everything, to stop that.”

Banks showed great scoring balance, with nine players contributing at least two points each. Substitutes Aspen Slifka, Sydney Gregg, Jessi Wren and Karlie Gerlinger combined to outscore the Bruins’ bench 21-0.

Ariel Slifka finished with 11 points, four rebounds and three steals, while Aspen added nine points and three steals. Bunn produced another solid all-around effort of six points, nine rebounds and three assists. Klein and Gerlinger added six points each, and Streblow chipped in four points and a game-high four assists.

Abby Farmer paced Brookings-Harbor with 10 points and nine rebounds. She was one of just four Bruins who scored during the game.

The Braves never made the state tournament before 2011, so the program’s current run of five state trophies in six seasons is easily its best ever.

This year’s group certainly puts itself in the conversation for best team of the bunch, too. That 2012 team did finish one spot higher in third – incidentally, those Braves also lost to Sutherlin at state, but in the semifinals.

That 2012 team did not win a Cowapa League title, however, which the 2013 and 2016 teams did, both in undefeated fashion. At 24-4, this year’s squad likely posted the best record in program history as well. Banks went 21-5 in 2012 and 22-5 in 2013.

Additionally, all of the Braves’ losses this year came to teams that finished the regular season ranked in the top eight of the OSAA power rankings. Three of them were to Cascade, Sutherlin and Mazama, the top three finishers at the state tournament.

In all, it’s quite a legacy Banks’ four senior starters, Borchers, Bunn, Ariel Slifka and Streblow, will be leaving.

“I’ve seen seniors over the years and I’ve definitely learned their leadership and just how they keep a team atmosphere,” Bunn said. “That’s just really what all the seniors did this year. We all equally had (a) leadership role on the team, and nobody stepped on each other’s toes.

“It was just a great, great team effort.”