Banks caps an undefeated season in league play with a 46-33 rout of Seaside

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks junior Lauren Birr gets off a jump shot over the Seaside defense during last Tuesday's game.All season long, the Banks girls basketball team has been plagued by injuries and illness. Now head coach Nick Rizzo has a chance to do something about it — by doing nothing at all.

The Lady Braves clobbered Seaside and Tillamook last week to clinch the first Cowapa League girls basketball championship in school history. In the process, Banks (20-3, 10-0) earned a bye for the play-in round of the Class 4A state playoffs, which means the Braves won’t play again until next Saturday — a span of 15 days from their final regular-season contest.

Many coaches will bridge that gap with tune-up games against other playoff-bound teams, but Rizzo will use it to let his players rest and recover from a seemingly endless string of nagging injuries.

“I would really like to pick up a game if we were healthier, but I don’t want to risk it,” Rizzo said. “I think we’re just going to hold off. We’ll get a good combination of rest and really hard work to make sure we stay in shape, and we’ll do a lot of fundamental work and shooting.

“No doubt I’ll be incredibly nervous when we step on the court for that Sweet 16 game (on March 2), but I’d rather try to get healthy over these two weeks than play some meaningless game and risk having anything else happen.”

Rizzo is hoping some extra R&R will benefit guard Lexi Chung, who has been recovering from a separated shoulder, and wing Riley Gerlinger, who sprained her ankle in the fourth quarter of last Friday’s blowout win against Tillamook.

Chung returned to the lineup last week against Seaside after missing the previous three games, and the senior responded with 10 points, four steals and four assists to lead the Lady Braves to a 46-33 victory that clinched the league title.

“(Lexi) kind of put the team on her back in the fourth quarter,” Rizzo said. “She did some real nice things for us. It was great to have her back.”

Samantha Duyck had 10 points and eight rebounds as the Lady Braves held off a late challenge from second-place Seaside (19-5, 8-2), which was looking to spoil Banks’ undefeated run.

“The kids were a little nervous before the game. They knew what was ahead of them,” Rizzo said. “It was a little closer than the score indicated. (Seaside) got within six points a couple times in the second half and they had a good crowd there, so it was nerve-wracking.

“It’s the first (girls basketball) league title in school history, so it’s a pretty special deal.”

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