banks high basketball

Banks readies for historic run

both boys and girls teams are among strong favorites to win
By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports.com

When the results from this past weekend's Class 4A basketball playoffs were final, Banks athletic director Ben Buchanan got busy with planning. The Braves didn't need hotel space or a lengthy bus trip, but they looked in need of just a little efficiency in travel.

The Banks boys qualified into the first quarterfinal game of the day in their bracket, while the girls got the second game of their quarterfinals. That put one game finishing as the other was starting. Fortunately, the two gyms holding the 4A tournaments – Forest Grove High and Pacific University - are just a few miles apart. Even better, Forest Grove is just six miles from Banks. With both the boys and girls teams winning their league title – these are exciting times for the formerly sleepy town on the outskirts of Hillsboro.

“The two games aren't far apart, but we want to make sure we can get everyone from one gym to the other and not miss too much of the girls game,” Buchanan said. “Everyone here has a lot of energy to support both teams.”

Braves fans in and outside the school are hoping this is the season Banks becomes a basketball school by winning a state title. Maybe even both state titles.

The boys were unbeaten for most of the year, and is 23-2. Senior Dalton Renne, a 6-foot-6 forward, was voted Cowapa League Player of the Year, a solid feat as two other league teams, Seaside and Valley Catholic – schools that met in the state final last year - played into the tournament as well.

The girls team also fields a 23-2 record, and won the Cowapa League title led by junior Aspen Slifka, who was voted league co-Player of the Year.

The Banks girls have been setting the stage for success for much of the past decade, winning a trophy six times in the past seven seasons. But only once had the Braves won a quarterfinal game – 2012, until last year. Finally, the team got through the quarters, then the semis and was on the way to a title, leading three-time champion Sutherlin 34-16 in the third quarter. But, Sutherlin found its champion's mettle, and rallied to win 49-43.

This season, Sutherlin, which beat Banks in the quarterfinals in 2016, failed to reach the tournament, and Banks has has a year's worth of drive working its game.

“With how that game went last year, it's definitely been a motivator,” fifth-year coach Brandon Begley said. “We talked a lot about how we want to leave everything on court, and not have any regrets after a game.”

Slifka said this season started almost directly after last year's title game ended as she made the all-tournament first team and teammate Sydney Gregg, now a senior, made the second team.

The Banks boys were a bit of a tournament surprise, needing a road win to reach the final eight. But, the Cowapa League had prepped them for playoff success – half of the final eight teams were from the league. After a 72-70 loss to league rival Tillamook in the quarterfinals, the Braves won two games and finished with a fourth-place trophy – the program's first trophy. Ever.

Banks has been able to display two basketball trophies in its office the past year. This year, both teams have been almost unbeatable and have filled the school's gym game after game.

“The success we had late last year, the guys we had coming back and the early season success we had this season really helped grow our confidence,” third-year boys coach Marcus Roche said. “Getting a league title in the toughest league in the state, we definitely think we're in the mix.”

Renne, who said he's likely to play at a junior college next year, has teamed with 6-7 junior Blake Gobel to give the Braves a standout frontline, and the team has two other 6-5 players behind them.

Banks didn't give up more than 50 points until its 15th win, and didn't lose until game 21. In their playoff win over Madras, the Braves hit for 102 points.

Renne said the team has gotten used to being a target.

“Teams circle us on their schedule,” he said. “It's fun to be that team. We get everyone's best.”

The basketball teams have been getting everyone's best from the community, too, with strong support at both home and away games. Renne and Slifka said they expect a very large turnout for Thursday's games.

“I haven't have anyone say they're just going to skip the whole day,” Slifka said. “But, who knows.”

 

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