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Banks girls hoops hopes for another stellar season

Braves are gunning for a return trip to the 4A state tourney

The Braves are back, and, boy, are they loaded.

Not many programs get to welcome back a double-digit number of returners from the previous season’s state trophy team, but that’s exactly what the Banks girls basketball team is doing.

The Braves add depth and versatility as well, which figures to be more bad news for opponents this winter.

“It’s an exciting group because we do have the seniors back that have a lot of experience, but we also mix in a good group of younger girls,” Banks head coach Brandon Begley said. “We have a great mixture and this year, probably more so than the last couple years, we just have a lot of girls that are flexible and can play multiple positions.”

Last winter, the team went 18-12 overall and finished third in a tough Cowapa League. In the postseason, the Braves scratched and clawed their way into the Class 4A state tournament, where they knocked off rival Seaside en route to earning the sixth-place trophy.

That could well be a prelude of more to come for this year’s group, which got off to a 2-1 start after dropping a 57-56 decision to Molalla in the season opener earlier this month. Banks also cruised to 54-33 and 52-23 victories against North Marion and Estacada, respectively.

“We didn’t play as well in that first game as we could have but got that one out of our way,” Begley said. “Our young kids are gaining a little bit of confidence each game, so we’ve been doing some good things here the last couple games.”

Chief among the returners are both of the program’s all-leaguers from last season, seniors Megan Bunn and Ariel Slifka.

Both girls mostly played in the post last year, but this year’s roster will allow Slifka to get out on the wing more, which Begley said is a nice switch for her.

Begley also mentioned the progression senior guard Cassie Streblow has made.

“Last year she played point guard for us and did a decent job, but this year she’s just looked so much better than she did last year,” Begley said. “She’s taken a big step forward this summer.”

Streblow will resume point guard duties this winter, but freshman Aspen Slifka, Ariel’s younger sister, will see time at that position too. Sophomore Destiny Maller can also play the point, giving the Braves lots of depth there.

Begley described Streblow as a “facilitator” who sees the floor well and can get to the basket, though Aspen Slifka is a bit more of a scoring threat. Listed as 5-foot-10, she can post up on shorter guards and get past larger opponents with quickness.

“She gives us a different dynamic than Cassie does, and it’s exciting to have two point guards we feel comfortable with but two point guards that can give teams different looks,” Begley noted.

Other key veterans include junior post Anna Klein, who started to come into her own last year, and senior wing/guard Jamie Borchers. She played point guard quite a bit last winter but should play more off the ball this season. Begley said junior wing Karlie Gerlinger has also made strides since last season and become a more aggressive presence.

Some of the other returners are sophomore wing Kim Jordan, sophomore post Sydney Gregg and junior wing Katie Ragsdale.

Newcomers are senior wing Tiffany Jansen and sophomore post/wing Jessi Wren, who was relegated to watching the Braves’ playoff run from the bench last winter after breaking her hand. But Begley said she is a savvy player who sees the floor well.

Those are the types of qualities the team is trying to further develop, Begley said, by watching film and studying the game more.

Results of Tuesday’s game against Cascade (3-1) were unavailable at press deadline. Next up, the Braves will play in the North Marion Holiday Classic Thursday through Saturday. Banks is also scheduled to play in the Sisters Tournament on Dec. 28-30.

“This group has a lot of potential and can do some special things,” Begley said. “One of the goals the girls have this year is to not have any of those games where we take a step back. ... They’re really focused on consistently getting better this year.”