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Girls basketball: Banks stages big second-half rally to down Seaside, 47-36

Braves will play Brookings-Harbor for fourth place on Saturday morning

It is a difficult task, beating the same team three times in a season.NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks' Ariel Slifka runs the ball up court after a steal by Aspen Slifka during Banks' 47-36 win over Seaside.

For a good long while of Friday’s game, the Banks girls basketball team didn’t look up for it.

Some 13 hours after their title hopes ended with a Class 4A state quarterfinal loss to Sutherlin, the Braves returned to the court for a consolation semifinal matchup against Seaside at Liberty High School.

Banks had downed the Seagulls twice earlier this season in Cowapa League play but struggled in all aspects of the game in the first half Friday morning. But the Braves exited the locker room at halftime determined to do better – and that’s exactly what they did, pouring it on in the second half, when they outscored their rivals 33-12 to claim a thrilling 47-36 comeback victory.

Banks, the No. 2 seed, will play No. 5 Brookings-Harbor at 9 a.m. on Saturday for the consolation title. The Bruins defeated eight-seeded Madras, 55-44, earlier on Friday.

“We told the girls at halftime, we played like we did yesterday in the second half, where we weren’t playing to win, we were playing not to lose,” Banks head coach Brandon Begley said. “We just were playing tight. We were playing like a team that was scared to lose their final game.”

Seaside’s Maddi Utti hit a jumper with about 25 seconds left to give her team a 24-14 halftime advantage, and as soon as the Braves hit the locker room, Begley said, the seniors were already saying that this was not how the team was going to bow out.

Indeed, consolation games are often just as much about attitude as ability. So over the final 16 minutes, Banks (23-4) upped the intensity on defense, got the offense going, tightened up the ball-handling and started knocking down free throws.

“At halftime, it’s tough to be down by 10,” said Aspen Slifka, who scored all of her points in the second half. “But I think we really stepped it up and kept our composure and that’s really what kept us going.”

It still took some time for the points to come. The third quarter featured probably as many jump balls as points, especially with Banks holding Seaside (20-7) to just one tally in the period. That free throw, by Annuka Brown, gave the Gulls a 25-15 lead with 4:30 left, but the Braves closed the quarter with buckets by Megan Bunn and Ariel Slifka and two Anna Klein free throws.

That run made it 25-21 entering the fourth, and at that point, Begley sensed the momentum swinging.

“I just saw the lights click on and the confidence start to grow,” he noted. “I’ve gotten pretty good at reading these girls over the years. Just the way they carried themselves, just their eyes on offense and defense, they looked like a team that was ready to go out there and get it done.”

Seaside’s Jesse Trott opened the fourth with a 3-pointer, but Banks just kept at it. Midway through, the Braves took their first lead since late in the first quarter, at 31-30, when Aspen Slifka and Cassie Streblow knocked down back-to-back threes.

About a minute after that, Bunn found a wide-open Ariel Slifka all alone under the basket for an easy layup and a 33-31 advantage. That kicked off a 10-2 run for Banks, putting the Braves firmly in command, up 41-33 with less than a minute to play.

Katie Ragsdale came off the bench to hit all four of her free throw attempts in that final minute to push the final margin to 11 points.

“It wasn’t just one person that stepped up,” Aspen Slifka observed. “As a whole, we all support each other, and we were able to lift each other up and just keep going.”

The first half clearly was a struggle, as Banks put the ball almost anywhere but in the basket. After going up 7-2 midway through the first quarter when Ariel Slifka put back her own miss, the Braves needed another nine minutes to reach the 10-point mark.

Banks shot just 3-for-15 from the field in the first half and could barely convert even from the free throw line, shooting 7-for-16. The Braves also committed 12 turnovers in that span.

“That first half was bad in all areas,” Begley said. “We were missing layups. We were missing free throws. We were turning the ball over. Our defense, we weren’t communicating. We weren’t getting out to the shooters. We weren’t defending the way we needed to, and then we changed most of that in the second half.”

Did they ever. The Braves looked like almost entirely different team over the final two quarters. Banks shot 7-for-20 from the field and 17-for-22 from the charity stripe, sinking its first seven attempts of the fourth quarter with the comeback fully on. The Braves also turned the ball over just twice in the second half and got the Seagulls to cough it up 12 times.

Ariel Slifka scored six points in each half to lead all scorers with 12. She also produced a game-high seven steals, including four in the second half. Bunn scored seven of her nine points over the final two quarters and added a game-high 12 rebounds. Streblow scored eight points, Aspen Slifka had seven points and three steals, and Klein chipped in six points and seven rebounds.

For Seaside, Utti finished with 11 points, four steals and three rebounds. Whitney Westerholm added 10 points and three assists, and Sydney Villegas had two points and nine rebounds.

Next up, the Braves will shoot for their second-best finish in program history, after the 2012 team, which took third place. The Far West League champion, Brookings-Harbor enters Saturday’s game with a 22-5 record. Begley watched the Bruins’ game against Madras and also has some film of them. He called them a high-energy team that likes to shoot 3-pointers.

“They’ll give us a battle, for sure, but if we play like we did in the second half,” he said, “we feel like we can compete with anybody.”