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Banks girls demolish first league opponents

Braves rout Astoria, Seaside to kick off Cowapa League play

The Banks girls basketball team didn’t have one of its better offensive performances last Friday night against Seaside, according to head coach Brandon Begley.

But when you hold your opponent to one point in the second half and just nine points for the game, well, the offense doesn’t matter much.

Banks’ smothering defense and an injury to Seaside star point guard Maddi Utti combined for a perfect storm last Friday, as the Braves limited the second-ranked Seagulls to just one free throw in the second half of a dominant 31-9 Cowapa League victory.

“Our girls came out strong and it was the best I’ve seen us play defensively for 32 minutes all season,” Begley said. “Offensively we didn’t look that good, but the defensive effort was outstanding.”

It was hard to argue with that assessment.

Seaside (12-3, 1-1 Cowapa) kept things close in the first quarter with a 3-pointer from Utti and a bucket from Sydney Villegas, and the Seagulls trailed 7-5 going into the second period. But Utti went to the bench with an injury before halftime and the Seaside offense sputtered without her, getting just one field goal and one free throw in the second quarter.

Banks (13-3, 2-0), meanwhile, started to generate some momentum behind a pair of buckets from Megan Bunn, and the Braves took a 15-8 lead into the locker room.

“Their star player went out in the first half and they just weren’t the same without her,” Begley said. “She tried to play a little bit (in the second quarter) but you could tell she wasn’t 100 percent.”

With Utti on the bench in the second half, the Seagulls didn’t score another field goal. Whitney Westerholm went 1-for-2 on a pair of free throws in the third quarter and that was Seaside’s only offense after the break.

Bunn scored two more buckets in the second half to help Banks pull away, and the senior finished with a game-high eight points. Ariel Slifka and Sydney Gregg scored six points apiece.

The result snapped Seaside’s nine-game winning streak and sent Banks to the top of the league standings, where the Braves sit tied with No. 9 Valley Catholic (13-3, 2-0). Those two squads will meet on Friday night at Banks High School with the inside track to a league title on the line.

“That’s a big one,” Begley said. “At the beginning of the season we figured that Seaside and Valley Catholic would be our biggest competition for a league title and I still feel that way. Those are three really good teams.”

Prior to last Friday’s win over Seaside, the Braves beat Astoria 61-44 on Tuesday in both teams’ Cowapa League opener.

The Braves came out red hot in that one, racing to a 31-12 halftime lead behind 13 first-half points from freshman Aspen Slifka, who frequently got out in transition and scored off Astoria turnovers.

“Our goal is to get as many easy baskets as possible,” Begley said. “It’s a lot easier to score when the defense doesn’t have a chance to get back and get set up.”

Slifka finished with a game-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers, and Bunn added 14 points. Ariel Slifka and Jamie Borchers contributed seven points apiece for the Braves.

Astoria (8-8, 1-1) got 21 points from Chloee Hunt, who almost singlehandedly kept the Fishermen in contention in the second half. The senior drained four 3-pointers and scored 19 points after intermission to pull Astoria within 11 before Banks slammed the door, in part by shooting 9-for-11 from the free throw line in the second half.