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Girls basketball: Reigning champ Sutherlin extinguishes Banks' title hopes

Bulldogs deal Braves a 37-29 setback in state quarterfinals

The Braves found out the hard way that the Bulldogs are the champs for a reason.NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks's Aspen Slifka takes a shot late in the fourth quater during Banks' 37-29 playoff loss to Sutherlin Thursday.

On paper, the Sutherlin girls basketball team may be the No. 7 seed in the Class 4A state tournament, but paper and reality are not one and the same. Banks pushed the one-loss Bulldogs well into the second half, but a stagnant offense and a poised Sutherlin side eventually doomed the Braves to a 37-29 quarterfinal loss at Forest Grove High School.

The Bulldogs snapped Banks’ 16-game win streak with the outcome and ran their own to 22 games. They have now won 80 consecutive contests against Oregon opponents and will face No. 3 Mazama in a 6:30 p.m. semifinal on Friday at Liberty High School.

“We just didn’t come out with the energy in the second half,” Banks head coach Brandon Begley said. “(Sutherlin coach) Josh (Grotting) did a good job of adjusting. Honestly, I got outcoached in that game. I didn’t make the adjustments that we needed to, to win that game.”

Specifically, Begley said, the Bulldogs did better guarding Banks’ posts and taking away the high-low option in the second half. They also caught the Braves flatfooted on defense, he said, and used it to their advantage.

No. 2 Banks (22-4) will have to rebound quickly to keep its trophy hopes alive. The Braves face a familiar opponent in the consolation semifinals in Cowapa League foe Seaside. That contest is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. on Friday at Liberty.

Banks set itself up well to unseat Sutherlin (25-1) after taking a 21-17 lead into halftime, but the Braves struggled mightily from the field in the second half, going just 4-for-21 (19 percent).

“The first half we attacked well,” senior Ariel Slifka said. “Actually, we finished quite a bit, made some outside shots. And in the second half we let them drive too much and fouled.”

Sutherlin did not shoot that much better during in the second half (5-for-15), but it did have success driving into the paint, as Slifka noted, and getting to the free throw line.

Harlee Baker was especially effective in both aspects for the Bulldogs over the final two quarters. The sophomore guard scored 12 of her game-high 17 points in the second half, including seven from the charity stripe.

Baker hit two free throws with 1:47 left in the third quarter to put Sutherlin up 24-23, the Bulldogs’ first lead since midway through the first quarter. Aspen Slifka then moved Banks back in front with the first bucket of the fourth quarter, but the Braves would never lead again. Baker scored the next four points, and a Samantha Tilley 3-pointer with 3:53 to play pushed the score to 33-27.

After that, the Bulldogs did a masterful job of working the clock for nearly two minutes, passing the ball around and not even really looking to take a shot at the basket. The Braves worked hard on defense but opted not to foul during that span, which ended with a foul call anyway. It wound up being the fifth personal on Megan Bunn, who had been competing with Kayce Mock for a pass.

Mock split the free throws with 2:03 remaining to give Sutherlin a 34-27 lead. Slifka cut that margin to five at the 1:28 mark with a steal and a layup, but the Braves would not score again and Baker and Taylor Stricklin combined for three free throws for the final margin.

“We just stopped attacking, I guess, and that’s what really finished the game for us,” senior guard Cassie Streblow said. “Our defense was still pretty strong in the second half, but … we just couldn’t really convert on offense, which is killer.”

Ariel Slifka led Banks with eight points, but all of them came in the first half. Sister Aspen added six points and a game-high four steals off the bench, while Bunn, Anna Klein and Karlie Gerlinger added four points apiece.

For Sutherlin, Mock posted a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds, and Stricklin had seven points and eight rebounds.

Now, to keep its season going, Banks must win its third game this season against No. 6 Seaside (20-6), which lost by a 44-31 score to Mazama on Thursday. A year ago, the Seagulls beat the Braves twice in league play, but Banks turned the tables in a state knockout game and eventually finished sixth.

“We don’t want to end the season without a trophy,” Begley said. “As hard as this is right now, we want to come out and do better tomorrow. That’s the message that Megan sent to the players, is they want to go out and play the game that we should have played today tomorrow, so that we can end the season with a trophy.”