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Girls basketball: Banks keeps pedal to metal in 59-14 victory over Tillamook

Big rematch against Valley Catholic looms on Tuesday

They’re getting really, really close now.

The Braves girls basketball team rolled to a never-in-doubt 59-14 victory at home against Tillamook on Friday night. While the outcome was expected – Banks won the first matchup this winter against the Cheesemakers by 47 points – it was an important victory nonetheless.NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks' Karlie Gerlinger goes up for a shot during Banks' 59-14 win over Tillamook.

That’s because it essentially locked up the Cowapa League title for the No. 2-ranked Braves, who ran their win streak to 13 consecutive games and have won 17 of their last 18. With just two conference contests remaining, Banks sits at 19-3 overall and 8-0 in the Cowapa, while second-place Valley Catholic is two games back.

“It’s definitely been a very memorable season this season, just having so much talent and just so many girls that want to work for it,” said Megan Bunn, who led all scorers with 18 points on Friday. “We all want the same goal, and that’s to get to the very end. We want to work hard every day in practice and it’s just been so much fun with this group of girls.”

Of course, regardless of context, breezing to a win is a great parting gift for any group of seniors on Senior Night.

“It was crazy. I couldn’t believe that it’s already here, Senior Night,” Jamie Borchers, one of five Braves seniors, said. “I remember watching it like two years ago and it’s always so emotional. And then tonight comes and it’s like, oh my god, I’m actually graduating. So we just wanted to go out and give it our best effort.”

All five of those seniors – Borchers, Bunn, Tiffany Jansen, Cassie Streblow and Ariel Slifka – started the game for Banks, which jumped out to an early lead against Tillamook and never trailed.

“Our focus this week has been getting off to better starts and playing with energy right from the beginning, because we’ve gotten off to some slow starts and we’ve talked about, against the better teams, we can’t afford to do that or else we’re going to find ourselves in a hole and then have to scrap to get back,” head coach Brandon Begley said.

Begley felt his team didn’t necessarily excel at that on Friday, but even still, Banks led 13-5 after one quarter and 26-9 at halftime. The advantage bloomed to 45-10 through three quarters, even though Begley frequently went to his bench. In fact, 14 Braves saw playing time and 12 of them scored.

Fittingly, three seniors paced Banks on the night. Bunn powered to nine points in each half. Slifka scored 10, points including eight in the second quarter, and Borchers added nine.

Lexi Zuercher scored seven points for Tillamook, while Jordan Zweifel put up five and Kara Main had two.

Three days earlier, the Braves picked up a 45-19 victory against No. 6 Seaside. With the visiting Seagulls still missing standout Maddi Utti, who was injured when these two teams met up on Jan. 22, Banks used a 16-2 second-quarter advantage to build a healthy lead and Seaside never could recover. The Braves never allowed the Seagulls to score more than seven points in a single quarter.

The Slifka sisters combined for 27 points, with freshman Aspen netting a game-high 14 and Ariel adding 13. Streblow and Bunn chipped in five apiece. Jesse Trott scored a team-high 10 points for Seaside, but no other Seagull put up more than two.

“I think it was just really important that we definitely came out strong on defense and kind of shut it down quickly before they got momentum,” Bunn said. “That kind of gave us more momentum on the offensive end, and it just kind of was flowing the whole time. It was nice to get off to a good start.”

On Thursday – with Utti back in the lineup, Begley said – Seaside beat Valley Catholic, 48-46.

Banks still has to play at No. 9 Valley (17-5, 6-2) on Tuesday, and certainly that is no gimme game. But the Braves round out the season Thursday against last-place Scapppoose (4-16, 0-8), whom they beat by nearly 60 points 10 days ago without Bunn in the lineup. Even with a loss to the Valiants, it would take a monumental upset by Scappoose for Banks not to win the league title outright.

But this team is not content to settle.

“We need to win one of our last two games to win league, so we’re in a good position,” Begley said. “But we told the girls, we don’t want to be satisfied just winning league. We want to go in and we want to get the win against Valley Catholic just to keep the momentum that we’ve been on and just show ourselves that the top teams, we’re good against them.”

Tuesday’s game against the Valiants in Beaverton is scheduled to start at 6 p.m., as is Banks’ regular-season finale at Scappoose.