By JOHN GUNTHER/for OSAAtoday
COOS BAY — For the first time in school history, Banks is the girls state basketball champion.
The Braves weathered an early 11-0 run by league rival Corbett, pulling ahead in the second half to beat the Cardinals 47-38 in the 3A OSAA/On-Point Community Credit Union state tournament at Marshfield High School on Saturday night.
“This is so surreal,” said Banks senior Hailey Evans as she and her teammates celebrated following the win. “This is so awesome.
“I’m just so proud of my team.”
The teams are familiar foes, having met three times in the Coast Valley League season. Each won on its home floor and Corbett won the title game in the league playoffs. And Corbett was No. 1 and Banks No. 3 in the final coaches poll (Banks was No. 1 and Corbett No. 3 in the OSAA rankings).
Given the similarity, Banks was not surprised at Corbett’s fast start. The Cardinals burst out of the gate to an 11-0 lead behind 3-pointers from Lilly Schimel, Taylor Donahue and Ella Holwege (By the end of the first quarter, Maddie Lanter had a 3-pointer for the Cardinals as well).
Banks finally got on the board on a jumper by Jocelyn Janecek nearly four minutes into the game and the Braves didn’t panic.
“We knew Corbett can go on a run,” said Alex Saunders, adding that the Cardinals had done just that the previous two meetings. “We knew how to respond to that. We responded really well.”
“They are streaky shooters,” Banks coach Nick Rizzo added. “You’ve just got to weather those storms.
“We knew that was going to happen at some point.”
Banks started to get the ball inside to Saunders and Madison Walker to chip away at the lead.
And the Braves largely held Corbett in check the rest of the way, earning praise from their coach.
“We held Corbett to 38 points,” Rizzo said. “To do that is unreal.”
It was the first time all year the Cardinals didn’t reach at least 40 and the Braves did it in an unusual way.
“We played man-to-man all game long,” Rizzo said. “We are a zone team.”
The defensive scheme worked and the offense did its part.
The Braves pulled within 21-20 by halftime and had their first lead at 24-22 on a layin by Walker with 5:30 to go in the third. Corbett never led again, but it wasn’t until a big surge by Evans in the fourth quarter that Banks got any type of comfortable margin.
She hit two 3-pointers and scored 13 of her 17 points in the final eight minutes.
“This is a team game,” Evans said. “They have confidence in me and I have confidence in them.
“I started feeling it.”
Rizzo said in the second half Evans and Madyson Bigsby gave the Braves a huge lift.
“Our posts carried us in the first half,” he said. “Our guards stepped up big in the second half.”
Evans was the only Banks player to finish in double figures, though Walker had nine points and 10 rebounds, Saunders scored eight points and Bigsby had seven. Janecek had six points and four assists.
“It was a great game,” said Saunders, who was named to the all-tournament first team (Walker was on the second team). “We put all our hearts on the floor.”
She said the Braves did a good job pushing the ball and working as a team.
“In the end, it came down to how much we wanted to win,” she said.
Corbett coach Bill Schimel was understandably disappointed, but said the Braves did what they needed to do.
“You’ve got to give Banks credit,” he said. “They hit some big shots. Every time we made a run, they made shots.”
Corbett had played for the 4A title last winter on the same floor, coming up short against Philomath, and dreamed of finishing the job this time.
“It’s just tough,” he said. “We really had our sights set on (winning the title).”
The Cardinals stayed with their starting five for all but the final few seconds of the first half and all of them made at least one 3-pointer, but Corbett shot just 24 percent overall.
“We had a good start and the shots went away,” Bill Schimel said.
Ally Schimel led the Cardinals with 12 points and Lilly Schimel had nine points and nine rebounds. Donahue scored eight and Holwege six (to go with nine boards).
All four of those players are back next year, but their coach felt for the team’s lone senior, Lanter, who played a key role in Corbett reaching the final by locking down Sutherlin star Micah Wicks a night earlier.
“We have a senior who really wanted to win,” he said.
He hopes, when the pain of the loss goes away, the Cardinals appreciate what they accomplished, including beating defending champion Nyssa and avenging a regular-season loss to Sutherlin in the semifinals.
“There’s a lot to be proud of,” he said. “It hurts too much to think of that now.”
Notes: The other players on the all-tournament first team were Wicks and Nyssa star Gracie Johnson, both unanimous selections by the coaches. The second team also included Santiam Christian’s Tayla Yost, Lakeview’s Kenna Stratton, Claire Crawford of Pleasant Hill and Amity’s Eliza Nisly. Amity won the sportsmanship award.