The Valiants rally from 12 down, take the lead in the fourth quarter, then flame out

TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Banks' Sydney Gregg reaches for the ball during her team's 43-40 win over Valley Catholic at Banks High School on Friday night.The Banks girls basketball team did just about everything right for the first three quarters of its Cowapa League showdown against Valley Catholic on Friday night at Banks High School.

The Valiants, meanwhile, did everything right for 3 minutes and 55 seconds.

Despite the disparate length of those two time spans, ninth-ranked Valley Catholic's efforts were almost enough to forge a win over the No. 2 Braves.

The key word in that previous sentence, however, was “almost.”

After the Valiants wiped out a 12-point Banks lead late in the game, the Braves stood strong, held Valley Catholic scoreless for the final 3:45 of the contest and held on to win 43-40. The victory lifted Banks' Cowapa League record to 4-0 (15-3 overall) and gave the Braves sole possession of first place in the Cowapa.

“That's a big win for us,” said freshman Aspen Slifka, who scored four of her six points in the fourth quarter. “Valley Catholic's really tough (but) we really just stayed together. We focused, listened to (coach Brandon Begley) and held it together.”

“I think people stepped up tonight and that was really important for us,” said junior Anna Klein, who led Banks with 13 points. “It was a very exciting night. I'm glad everyone was here to come and see it.”

Valley Catholic, meanwhile, which entered the game with identical Cowapa League and overall records to Banks, was disappointed with the final result but knew it could play far better than it showed on Friday. VC fell to 3-1 in league play and 14-4 overall with the loss.

“That's sort of been our struggle all season — just finding our stride for a whole game instead of just parts of it,” said VC sophomore Noelle Mannen, who scored five of her seven points in the second half. “This gives us something to keep working on, just to keep being consistent mostly.”

“We kind of got stuck in Banks' game (in the first half), slowing it down and taking time off the clock,” added sophomore Petra Flemmer, who tied teammate Molly Danielson for game-high scoring honors with 15. “The second half, we were able to play more of our game. We would have liked to have played that at the beginning.”

After Valley led 5-2 early on, Banks rallied with an 8-2 run over the final 4:01 of the opening quarter to push in front 10-7, getting two points each in the period from Jamie Borchers, Karlie Gerlinger, Ariel Slifka, Sydney Gregg and Klein.

The Braves carried that momentum into the second period, too, opening the second stanza with 11 straight points to extend their advantage to 21-7. Banks' efforts there were highlighted by six points from Megan Bunn (she turned an ankle moments later, left the game and did not return), four from Gerlinger and three by Klein, with Gerlinger's fast break hoop boosting her team's lead to 14 points with 3:19 left in the half.

The Valiants cut that deficit to 21-13 when Molly Danielson took a pass from Callie Kawaguchi and hit a short jumpshot with 2:11 left in the period, but Banks took a 10-point lead into the third quarter. From there, the Braves never led by fewer than eight points in the third and pushed their margin back to 33-21 when Gerlinger cashed in on the fast break with 1:05 remaining.

But Valley Catholic — seemingly lifeless through almost three full quarters — was not done yet. Not by a long shot.

Beginning with Danielson's inside basket assisted by Mady Moore at the end of the third quarter, the Valiants took off on a 19-6 run that put them right back into the ballgame.

The Valley Catholic defense powered that stretch by forcing five Banks turnovers on the Braves' next eight possessions, three of those Tos on steals from Danielson, Beyer and Kate Nguyen.

On the other end of the court, Mannen hit a free throw, Danielson followed with an inside hoop and a foul shot, Flemmer scored four points in seven seconds, Danielson added another four points of her own, Mannen went coast-to-coast for a basket after a Banks miss, and Flemmer drained a long, arcing three-pointer from the right side of the court that gave VC a 40-39 lead with 3:45 left in the game — the team's first lead in more than 23 minutes.

Banks, however, did not crack. The Braves turned up the heat with their own defense, kept VC off the scoreboard the rest of the way and did just enough offensively — Aspen Slifka scored once on the fast break and again on a short jumper, the second of those good for a 43-40 edge with 1:52 to go.

With the score still at 43-40 and just six seconds left on the clock, the Valiants got the ball to Mannen for an off-balance three-pointer that glanced off the side of the rim and fell harmlessly to the floor just before the final buzzer.

“Driving in and being very aggressive and going to the basket was important tonight,” Klein said. “It was really important for us to stay loose and I think we did that really well.”

“We just worked hard, kept our composure and got the win,” Aspen Slifka said. “We're really excited.”

For their part, the Valiants were proud of their efforts despite the final score.

“Even when we got down by a lot ... everyone just stuck with the game plan and they kept hustling as hard as they could,” Mannen said. “Eventually, that wore them down and things just started clicking for us.”

Gerlinger added eight points in the win for Banks and Bunn six. For Valley, just four players scored in the game, Flemmer and Danielson with 15 each, Mannen with seven and Beyer with three.

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