The Banks High School girls varsity basketball team defeated Corbett 47 to 38 Saturday March 4 to become 3A OSAA state champions for the first time in school history.
The girls varsity team entered the state playoffs as a one seed after a strong season boasting a 24-2 win loss record. Their number one seed earned them a bye for the first round.
In the second round, the team beat 17 seed Burns 45 to 37 earning them a spot in the two day state tournament in Coos Bay, starting March 2.
The tournament began with the quarterfinals round during which the Lady Braves faced off with Lakeview, a nine seed. This game would prove to be the closest and most challenging.
With the game tied at the end of the fourth quarter senior Madison Walker scored the game winning basket off an inbounds play with just 2.6 seconds left to play.
The next day the team handily defeated Santiam Christian in the semi-finals with a final score of 47 – 31 leading to their eventual face off with 3 seed Corbett.
The Braves matchup against Corbett was more than just the championship game — it was a grudge match. Corbett was the only team to defeat the Braves all season and bested them during the league playoffs.
“Beating Corbett was an unbelievable feeling,” Walker said. “After losing to them in the league playoff game it made us even more determined to fight back and beat them.”
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During the season Corbett gained a reputation for incredible scoring. They started off the championship game with an 11-0 run on the Braves, but thanks to the stiff defense of the Lady Braves, they held the Cardinals to just four points in the second quarter and brought the game to within 1 by the end of the first half.
“To me, it was all about playing defense,” Braves coach Nick Rizzo said. “We knew that we can have quarters where we can absolutely lock them down.”
The third quarter remained close, but ended with a three point Lady Braves lead. As the second half continued the Braves managed to build on their lead and finished the game with a nine point lead and a win over their stiffest competitor of the season.
This season was Nick Rizzo’s first time back at the position of head coach of the girls basketball team in years. Coming in as a new head coach he wasn’t sure what to expect, but as the season rolled on he began to realize that this team might have what it takes to go all the way.
Rizzo remembers asking his team for goals for this season, he remembers one player in particular setting their sights on the state champ title.
“My hope and goal for this season was to win league, make it to state, to win state and cut the nets down,” said senior Haily Evans.
As the season stretched on the Lady Braves team became a stand out as they became the only remaining undefeated 3A team in the state. But the pressure began to weigh on the team, Rizzo said.
Midway through the season, the Braves lost for the first time to Corbett and despite the frustration of losing, Rizzo says it may have been the best thing that could have happened to the team.
The pressure was off for a little while, but as the season continued the Lady Braves still had a target on their back, especially going into the state tournament as a one seed.
“I was very happy going in as the number one seed because I think it reflected just how well our season was before the tournament,” said Alex Saunders.
Clearly, the Lady Braves overcame the high expectations that come with such a successful season. According to Rizzo, what allowed this team to persevere was a hard working attitude that he identified as a common trait of Banks athletes.
“We have hard nosed, hard working kids that aren’t necessarily pure basketball players; they’re multi-sport athletes,” Rizzo said. “Sometimes you can’t control if your shots are gonna fall or not, but you can always control the kind of effort that you put out there.”