By JOHN GUNTHER/for OSAAtoday
COOS BAY — The Banks girls pride themselves on defense. When they finally got the offense going Friday, the top-ranked Braves surged into the championship game of the OSAA/On-Point Community Credit Union 3A basketball tournament at Marshfield High School.
Now they face league rival Corbett, known for its shooting, which won its semifinal game against Sutherlin on Friday with defense. The championship is scheduled to tip-off at 5:45 p.m.
Banks pulled away from Santiam Christian over the final 12 minutes to advance to Saturday’s final with a 47-31 victory.
“I’m so happy right now,” said Hailey Evans, who made seven free throws down the stretch to help the Braves push their lead. “I’m so proud of my team. We’ve worked so hard. It was a great effort.”
Banks led 18-17 at the half and ultimately limited the Eagles to just 19 points over the final three quarters with the team’s typical stingy defense.
“We work on it a lot,” Evans said. “We go after each other every practice. That’s the goal — to make each other better.”
The Braves forced 21 turnovers, though they also committed 22, and limited Santiam Christian to 26.5 percent shooting for the game.
“Once again, great team defense,” said Banks coach Nick Rizzo.
The Braves finally broke the game open with better work on the offensive end.
“We started to attack on offense,” Evans said.
And the shooters started making shots.
Alex Saunders led the Braves with 14 points, while Evans scored nine and Madison Walker and Tyler Rose seven each. Rose and Walker hit the team’s two 3-pointers as they pulled away.
Rizzo said he loves to see that balanced scoring.
“We don’t have any standout individuals,” he said. “We just have an awesome group of girls.”
Tayla Yost had 17 points and 12 rebounds and Maddie Fields added eight points for Santiam Christian, which faces Sutherlin in the third-place game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Eagles had come back from 17 down while winning their quarterfinal game Thursday, which was a big concern for Rizzo.
“No lead is safe with them,” he said, adding that he didn’t get comfortable until the clock was down to two minutes and Banks led by double figures.
For Banks, with no players with state tournament experience before this week, playing for the title Saturday will be a treat.
“I’m so stoked,” said Evans, one of four seniors in the starting lineup along with Rose, Walker and Madyson Bigsby.
The comfortable margin of victory provided an extra treat for the Braves, as the team’s younger players were able to get on the court in the final minute.
“To get our young bucks on the court the last 30 seconds — that was awesome for the team,” Rizzo said.
The starters celebrated a late bucket by Brooklynn Robinson as much as they celebrated anything all game.
Corbett 50, Sutherlin 40: The Cardinals built the lead with their trademark 3-point shooting, but kept it with their stingy defense, especially against Sutherlin star Micah Wicks.
“Our goal was to lock down Micah Wicks and the rest of us help Maddie Lanter on defense,” said Corbett’s Ally Schimel.
“She’s the best defender on the team,” added Ella Holwege. “That’s what Maddie does.”
Wicks scored 18 points, but had to work for all of them, and most of the game to just get the ball, with Lanter never straying far from her side.
The rest of the Bulldogs never got going on offense.
Sutherlin had just one field goal in the first half, trailing 18-10 at the break, and finished 25 percent for the game from the floor (11-for-44) and 0-for-15 from 3-point range.
Madison Huntley and Addyson Clark each ultimately scored seven points and Huntley grabbed 10 rebounds.
Corbett, meanwhile, had four 3-pointers in the first quarter while building a 14-2 lead and seven in the game. Even though their percentage was just 28 percent from long range, the timing was significant as they kept Sutherlin from ever getting momentum.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to four points a couple of times in the final two quarters, even after Corbett built a 14-point lead midway through the third, but could never get closer.
“You always want to match their points and keep your head in the game,” Schimel said of countering Sutherlin’s runs.
Holwege had a game-high 23 point and hit four of the 3-pointers, while Schimel had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Lilly Schimel and Taylor Donahue each also hit 3-pointers and the Cardinals finished 9-for-11 from the line as well.
Corbett was able to get in front by converting good looks, even as Sutherlin tried to deny 3-pointers. The Cardinals move extremely well without the ball and don’t need a lot of space to get up shots.
“It’s super important,” Ally Schimel said of the team’s movement. “It gets our girls open.”
“We always know where every girl is at,” added Holwege.
They also were able to overcome foul trouble — four of the five starters finished with four fouls and the fifth had three.
Still, Corbett stayed aggressive, winning most of the loose balls and grabbing 14 offensive rebounds while also forcing Sutherlin into 18 turnovers.
“Leave it all on the court — that’s what we always do,” said Holwege, who had six steals. “Keep the energy up and get after it. We do this as a team.”
That concept was vital in what the team expected to be a tight game.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Holwege said. “We knew if we played as a team we could come out on top.”
Now the Cardinals face Banks for the fourth time. They split their two meetings in Coastal Range League play and Corbett won the matchup in the league playoffs.
“Both teams know each other,” Holwege said. “It will be a good game.”
It’s the second straight year Corbett will play for a state title at the Pirate Palace. Last year, the Cardinals came up short against Philomath in the 4A title game (both Corbett and Banks dropped down to 3A this year).
“I’ve been waiting all year to get back (to the title game),” Ally Schimel said. “I’m super excited.”