Aspen Slifka offered a blunt assessment of her team's first meeting with Seaside:
"We knew we had more in us."
Apparently, she was right.
Slifka helped build a big lead by scoring six of her 14 points in the first quarter, Anna Klein finished with a game-high 18, and host Banks claimed a share of its second consecutive league title Thursday by knocking off the rival Seagulls 39-30 on the final night of the Cowapa season.
Officially, both teams finish the regular season with identical 9-1 league records, although they'll square off for a third time Tuesday in Tillamook. That one will be for state seeding purposes only, but Banks nevertheless will hope for a showing much closer to Thursday's than to last month's 62-58 loss at Seaside -- the game that left Slifka and so many of her teammates feeling utterly embarrassed by their performance.
"I think today we had more energy and more control over what we were doing. We definitely came out with a lot more poise and knew what we were going to do," Klein said.
"To be able to come back from that loss against them and be able to tie it up is great. I've been blessed to have an amazing senior year. These girls have just worked so hard to get us where we are."
Klein balanced her scoring by making six shots from the field and six shots from the line. She was the biggest leader of the Banks attack on this particular night, but she was quick to point out that on any other night, that role can be -- and has been -- filled by any number of her teammates.
"The great thing about our team is that every single person from 1 to 16 is a leader, and I can look to any one of them and I have full trust in any one of them at any point on the court," Klein said.
Sydney Gregg (four points), Karlie Gerlinger (two) and Destiny Maller (one) completed the scoring for Banks, which led 18-6 after the first quarter. Banks improved to 18-2 on the season, with the other loss coming by one point, on the road, against No. 1 Cascade.
Maddi Utti finished with a team-high 13 points for the Seagulls (16-3), a far cry from the 37 she put up in the earlier meeting.
"The last game (against Seaside) we played the worst game that we've played in two years," Banks coach Brandon Begley said. "So, we just felt like if we came out and played our game, took care of the ball a little bit, stepped up our defense, that we'd be in a good position.
"I think the deciding factor, obviously, was our defense. Our defense was obviously a lot better, and the girls just stepped up when they needed to tonight."
Begley has guided Banks to the Class 4A state tournament in each of the previous two seasons. A first-round win March 4 would mean another tourney trip for Banks -- that is, if one can accurately call it a "trip." The state's final eight teams will duke it out in Forest Grove, a mere six miles down the road from Banks.
"It's great for us because that means our community can be there," Begley said. "We're lucky to have a community that supports girls -- and, really, all school programs -- the way they do. We're excited to have a lot of our fans there, a lot of our community there cheering us on, because a lot of times they're the fuel that gets us through the spurts where we're not playing as well."
Banks has earned fourth- and sixth-place trophies under Begley. When asked how far he believes the current group can advance, Begley said "the sky is the limit," though he cautioned that upcoming practices will be key because "we still need to get better."
To that, his players have a simple response:
Bring it on, Coach!
"One day at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time," Klein said. "We'll definitely be working our butts off every single day to get as far as we possibly can."
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