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The Braves, playing without six varsity players, fall to the Pirates 56-44 at Banks High.

STAFF PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks senior Jessi Wren goes up for a shot during the Braves' game against Dayton Feb. 3 at Banks High School.Some losses are more acceptable than others. And considering the turmoil the Banks Braves' girls basketball team is enduring due to an unprecedented level of injuries, Saturday's loss wasn't the end of the world.

"I'm happy with the way the kids battled today," said Banks head coach Brandon Begley. "We were very shorthanded."

The Braves - playing without six varsity players, including standout post Sydney Gregg - fell 56-44 to the 3A classification's No. 2-ranked Dayton Pirates Feb. 3 at Banks High School.

The Pirates, led by a nice combination of outside shooting and bruising bigs, built a lead in the second quarter, expanded on that lead in the third and cruised to victory, handing Banks just their second loss this season.

But despite the loss, Begley and the Braves players were surprisingly upbeat about the performance and are making the most of an otherwise trying situation.

"I saw some really good things out there," said Begley. "The girls fought all the way on both ends of the floor. Certainly we have some things to improve upon and offensively we have to adjust to our new roles, but that will come."

The Pirates were led by senior guard Shawnie Spink who scored 21 points, including five three-pointers, four of which came in the first half. Senior guard Jaden Moore added nine points on three three-pointers, and posts Kalina Rojas and Chloe Cisneros caused the undersized Braves fits, combining for 23 points and 14 rebounds.

"I though in the first half we did a really good job defensively, but they made some adjustments at the half and got more looks inside," Begley said. "But I don't think we'll run into too many teams with the combination of bigs and shooters that they have. We need to do better with the help side defense, closing out on shooters, and blocking out on rebounds."

Spink started the game with back-to-back threes and got a little help from Cisneros to build a 10-2 lead. Then after seven straight Rylie Kind points pulled the Braves within one, Spink ended the quarter with her third trey and gave the visitors a 13-9 lead after one quarter.

After a fourth Spink three made it 16-9 to start the second, Banks got baskets from Jessi Wren and Aspen Slifka to cut the lead to three, but subsequently watched Dayton go on a 10-3 run before a Kind basket to end the half left the Braves trailing 26-18 at the break.

"We struggled a bit, especially in the first half to find scoring," said Begley. "We told the girls we need to adjust to girls taking on new roles offensively and that it will take a bit to get that, but during that period of adjustment we really need to focus on the defensive end."

The Pirates essentially ended the game in the first half of the third quarter, opening the second half on an 11-0 run to make the score 37-18. But Banks didn't quit, closing the gap to 12 on the back of Slifka's eight third quarter points, and when Kind made two free throws to end the quarter the Braves trailed 43-31 with eight minutes to play.

Banks never got closer than 11 in the fourth, but found a bit of a groove with Kind and freshman Camila Narvaez getting to the rim for a handful of point blank buckets. Begley, despite playing with a relative skeleton crew, noted it's that type of effort that's going to be needed as a result of a somewhat clouded future regarding personnel, and he thinks his girls are up to it.

"It's day to day," said the coach. "We'll see, but right now we're focused on what we have and the girls aren't making excuses. Every time we have enough kids to put out there and play, the girls expect to win. I love that about them."

Next for Banks is a game Feb. 6 at Valley Catholic. With four league games remaining, the Braves hold a one-game edge on the Valiants and with a win would likely sew-up the Cowapa League title. Begley said they're not thinking about that, but they are focusing on themselves and stopping Valley's dynamic guard duo of Noelle Mannen and Callie Kawaguchi, who combined for 40 points in the team's first meeting.

"If we go out and take care of business on the defensive end will be in good position," Begley said. "We did a good job on Kawaguchi in the first game, but we need to do a better job on Noelle, who is also banged up right now."

And as a result of the loss to Dayton and the rash of injuries, how's team morale?

"The girls are happy right now," said Begley. "They're not happy about losing, but they feel good about how we played and that girls stepped up, as well as the effort tonight. This could've easily been a 25-30 point loss the way it was going, so they're ready to go and ready to continue getting better."

Kind led Banks with 14 points, while Slifka added 13 for the Braves.


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