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Girls basketball: Banks downs Valley Catholic to put finishing touches on league title

Braves go 6-for-6 from free throw line inside final minute to seal big win

BEAVERTON – The queens stand alone.

Entering this week, the Banks girls basketball team already had locked up at least a share of the Cowapa League title.

But the Braves made sure that they’ll have it all to themselves by knocking off No. 9 Valley Catholic, 53-48, on the road on Tuesday night. In a game that was closely contested pretty much the entire way, Cassie Streblow, Megan Bunn and Anna Klein combined for six consecutive makes at the free throw line inside the final minute to help wrap up the victory and seal the program’s first league championship since 2013.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Banks celebrates their win over Valley Catholic.

“We talked about it, we wanted to win it here,” Banks head coach Brandon Begley said. “This has been our rival and it’s an awesome environment. John (Innes is) a great coach. It was where we wanted to wrap it up. We didn’t want to lose here and then wrap it up in Scappoose. We wanted to win it here so it meant a little bit more to us.”

No. 2 Banks ran its win streak to 14 games in a row and upped its record to 20-3 overall and 9-0 in conference play with the result. After a 58-36 win at Astoria on Thursday, the Valiants moved to 18-6 overall and 7-3 in the Cowapa, tied with Seaside for second place.

For every player on the roster except for Bunn, this conference title is their first in basketball.

“I’m a little speechless,” said Streblow, one of Banks’ five seniors. “That was kind of our goal the whole season, to end up league champions. It feels awesome to go in, hopefully end up 10-0, but (to) take care of business tonight was huge.”

The Braves entered the fourth quarter nursing a slim 40-37 lead, but Valley Catholic opened the period on a 7-0 run, going up 44-40 on a Callie Kawaguchi jumper.

But then Banks got a free throw from Jamie Borchers and buckets from Ariel Slifka and Bunn to move back in front, 45-44, with about 3:40 to play.

The Braves never trailed again. Petra Flemmer did split a pair of free throws to briefly tie the score at 45-45, but Bunn converted a strong move in the post into a bucket with less than two minutes left for a 47-45 Banks lead.

Neither team scored again for much of the next minute, but the Braves got key plays when they needed them. First, Valley Catholic started fouling with about a minute to play and Cassie Streblow missed two front ends of one-and-ones.

On the first shot, Banks got the ball back after it hit off a Valiant and went out of bounds. On the second, Klein ripped a rebound away from a Valley Catholic player to help her team keep possession. And when Streblow stepped to the line a third time – in yet another one-and-one situation with 43.2 seconds to go – she did not miss.

“I was just thinking what I did wrong,” Streblow said. “They both seemed to go to the right, so I took a step to the left and it seemed to work.”

Her two free throws gave the visitors a 49-45 advantage, and Bunn’s pair made it 51-45 with 32.4 seconds to play. The Valiants struggled to get off a shot after that for a time until Noelle Mannen knocked down a 3-pointer at the 10-second mark.

But Klein iced the game with her free throws with 6.8 seconds left, and after the clocked expired, the Braves could officially celebrate their win and title.

“Free throws are all mental and if you go up there with confidence, you’re going to make those free throws,” Bunn said. “My whole team believed in all of us. We believe in each other and we all knew we were going to make those free throws at the end.”

Early on, Banks seized control, taking a 13-4 first-quarter lead on a Bunn jumper. Valley Catholic didn’t get rattled, though, whittling away at its deficit and even taking an 18-17 lead when Jessi Beyer hit a three midway through the second quarter. After that, neither team led by more than two points the rest of the first half, which the Braves exited up 28-27 after Bunn converted a three-point play inside the final minute.

“We talked at halftime that at halftime, they had 27 points and nine of them were on 3-pointers and eight of them were on free throws,” Begley noted. “We said if we can keep those things from happening that we would have a pretty good chance. We weren’t very disciplined in that stretch where we let them get back.

“The girls did a better job of staying disciplined, staying in front of people and making sure we closed out on their shooters.”

The Braves led all of the third quarter and went up 40-34 when Klein cashed in on a feed from Borchers with a bit more than a minute to play, but Beyer answered with a 3-pointer for the final score of the third quarter to keep the Valiants within that three-point margin heading into the fourth.

Bunn led all scorers with 17 points, including 10 crucial ones in the second half. Slifka sisters Ariel and Aspen finished with eight points apiece, Streblow had seven and Klein added six, all in the second half.

Molly Danielson paced Valley Catholic with 13 points, but the Braves held her to four after halftime. Mannen also reached double figures with 11 and Beyer chipped in nine.

The victory ensured a second league title for Bunn in the sport. She was the sole freshman on the 2013 title team, which went on to take sixth place in the state tournament.

“It feels great to get it my senior year,” Bunn said. “It’s a perfect way to go out.”

On Thursday, Banks went out and made sure it was indeed perfect, breezing past Scappoose, 51-12, to complete a 10-0 run through the Cowapa. Now, the Braves await the outcome of next week’s play-in round to learn who will be their first-round state playoff opponent.