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The returning pair of all-league performers headline Braves basketball for upcoming season

NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO - Banks' Dalton Renne takes a last second shot during the Braves' game in last year's state tournement versus Tillamook.Marcus Roche is excited.

The Banks boys head basketball coach returns a number of key contributors from last year's team that finished a school best fourth in the OSAA 4A state tournament, including all-league performers Dalton Renne and Blake Gobel.

In addition to the standouts, the Braves also return a contingent of role players whose experience playing for a state title contender will bolster their chances of competing for a Cowapa League title, and another shot at the state championship they could smell from their quarterfinal last-second defeat to Tillamook last March.

"Last year was great and we accomplished a lot, but I'm really excited about what this year can bring," said Roche. "We have a lot of returners and key guys coming back, and I think the new guys coming in are going to help us, especially defensively."

While the youth will bring a bit of a mystery to this year's team, there's no question about what Renne and Gobel bring to the table. The senior Renne, at 6-foot-6, offers a number of different threats, including the ability to handle the ball, play in the paint and knock down a deep three. Gobel, a 6-foot-8 junior who played primarily in the post last season, is a year stronger — and Roche thinks he will offer a unique challenge to Cowapa League competition and beyond.

"Blake and Dalton have both improved," said the coach. "Dalton's a senior and played a lot of basketball, and Blake's developing into one of the premier posts in our league and in the 4A. So with that added confidence I expect both of them to be even better this year."

The Braves finished 19-7 last season and were third in the Cowapa League behind first place and eventual state champioin Seaside, and second place and state runner-up Valley Catholic. They played their way to the state tournament with wins over Stayton and Cottage Grove, and lost a heartbreaker to Tillamook — a team they beat three times in the regular season — in a state quarterfinal, 72-70. They followed that loss with back-to-back wins over Henley and Gladstone, claiming the fourth place trophy and setting the stage for even bigger things in 2018.

NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO - Banks' Blake Gobel goes up for a shot during the Braves' game against Tillamook in last year's state tournament.Among those gone are point guard Kylan Taylor, wing Jake Evans and forward Ian Hutchins. Junior Bret Cameron played a fair amount last season and is expected to step into the point guard role vacated by Taylor.

"I think Bret is more than up to the task," said Roche. "He's one of those kids with natural point guard instincts that we haven't had a lot of. He has great court vision, great understanding of the game and can knock down a shot when we need it."

Roche also expects junior guard Dakota Bunn to play a key role and 6-foot-4 sophomore Jacob Slifka to help off the bench.

"Dakota is one of the better defenders we have in the program and is a big energy guy at the point," Roche said. "And Jacob will help us defensively and with scoring on the wing."

Roche expects Seaside and Valley Catholic to again be good, despite the Seagulls losing two-time state Player of the Year Jackson Januik and the Valiants being without standouts Daniel Hardy and Colin Haggerty.

"Seaside was still really good in the summer," said Roche. "It's going to look a little different but their six starters are probably the best top-six in the state. Yet I think Valley is probably the team to beat ... they have enough key returners and they had a loaded JV."

In addition to the usual suspects, Tillamook returns unanimous All-State Tournament selection Ian Collett and Roche sees Scappoose as being much improved. He believes the Cowapa to be one of the toughest conferences in the state, but likes and appreciates it due to the competition preparing them for the postseason road to come.

"There's no coasting in this league," he said.

Banks opens the season at home Nov. 30 against Molalla.

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