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Braves surviveplay-in scarefrom Bulldogs

Banks girls get pushed to overtime by North Bend but escape with a victory


Somehow, some way, Banks found a way out of this one.

Hosting North Bend in a Class 4A girls basketball play-in game last Saturday, the Braves didn’t score for nearly 15 minutes during one stretch in the second half. They had a chance to win the game on free throws with no time left in regulation — and missed both. And in overtime, they trailed by four points with time ebbing away.Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: KENT FRASURE - Banks senior Hannah VanDomelen drives past Gabby Hobson of North Bend during last Saturday's Class 4A girls basketball play-in game.

“They got up by four and we came down the next possession and turned it over,” Banks coach Brandon Begley said. “At that point, it’s a minute, minute and a half left, and you’re starting to think, ‘OK, this may be the end.’”

Except it wasn’t, as Banks rallied with some key plays on defense and a 7-0 game-closing run for a heart-stopping 39-36 victory to advance to the state playoffs.

The 10th-seeded Braves, who have now made the playoffs five years in a row, travel to No. 7 La Grande for a first-round game at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The winner advances to the Class 4A state tournament, scheduled for March 12-14 at Liberty and Century high schools in Hillsboro.

So how did Banks get it done? The short answer is with some grit, hustle and a never-say-die attitude.

The Braves (16-10) dictated play early, taking a 21-12 lead in the first half and a 30-24 advantage midway through the third. The home team went stone-cold from there, though, and scored just two points in the fourth.

The Bulldogs (11-11) had their own scoring troubles with just four points in that final period, but a 3-pointer by Drew Culver midway through it sent the game into extra time. Banks missed all four free throws — a team bugaboo at times this season — it took in the final few seconds of regulation, with the last two actually coming with no time left on the clock.

After North Bend went up by four in OT, the Braves finally responded, starting when Cassie Streblow stole the ball and Hannah VanDomelen ended the home team’s scoring drought with an offensive putback.

“We took good care of the ball, it’s just we couldn’t hit anything,” Begley noted. “We were able to give ourselves a few extra possessions by forcing some turnovers on them. That ended up being the difference, just giving ourselves those extra possessions because we were struggling so much offensively.”

Defense continued to propel Banks forward in the final minute, when Begley called freshman Kim Jordan’s number for the first time in the contest, and her hounding defense helped result in North Bend point guard Kadie Forderer dribbling the ball off her foot for one of the Bulldogs’ 28 turnovers.

Megan Bunn then split a pair of free throws the other way with 40 seconds remaining, and Ariel Slifka put the Braves ahead for good at 37-36 with her offensive board and bucket while being fouled with 25 seconds left.

She missed the and-one attempt, but Jojo Wren helped ice the game with two free throws with 10 seconds left after yet another Banks steal, this one by Anna Klein. The makes were a bit of personal redemption for Wren, who missed the two tries with no time remaining in regulation.

“After the game, I told her how proud I was of her,” Begley said of Wren. “That’s a tough situation to miss two free throws like that and then come back and make two big ones later in the game that seal the win for us.”

Culver led North Bend with 11 points, Cheyenne Datan added 10 and Brittney Kubli chipped in eight points.

Bunn topped all scorers with 13 points, while Slifka and Wren contributed nine apiece.

Another potential barnburner looms in La Grande, an opponent with plenty of recent history against Banks. The Tigers (17-5) dealt the Braves a heartbreaking 49-47 loss in the state quarterfinals two years ago, and they eked out a 43-42 win in the Sisters tournament in late December after blowing a 19-point lead. Van Domelen and Bunn both missed parts of that latter loss due to illness.

The Braves, meanwhile, took a 41-39 decision at last season’s Sisters tourney.

“I think we feel confident going into this game that we can definitely give them a run for their money, and hopefully this time we can come out on top,” Begley said.

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