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The Braves survive a sub par performance to easily dismiss the visiting Bulldogs

The Banks girls are moving on.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks celebrates during their 55-26 playoff win over North Bend Saturday night.

Like the boys before them, the No. 2-ranked Braves advanced to this week's OSAA 4A State Tournament with a relatively easy 55-26 win over North Bend Saturday, March 4, at Banks High School.

"It was ugly at times," said Banks head coach Brandon Begley. "But we won, and that's all that matters."

And he was right — it wasn't Banks' best.

The usually hard-charging Braves came out flat: missing shots, making lazy passes and getting beat to loose balls, something rarely seen from a Banks team defined for most of the year by its hustle and determination.

"We didn't play well," said Begley. "A lot of our key players came out flat today. We did a lot of reaching, didn't rebound the ball real well, we certainly weren't at our best."

The game started amidst a shower of threes. Sydney Gregg got things started for the home Braves with an early three-pointer. North Bend's Drew Culver almost immediately responded with a three of her own, then Banks' junior wing Destiny Maller answered back, making the score 6-3.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks post Sydney Gregg fights for a rebound during Banks 55-26 playoff win over North Bend Saturday night. After a Cheyenne Dayton basket cut the lead to 6-5, the Braves' Karlie Gerlinger made it 9-5, then Maller scored and added a free throw to make it 12-5 and give Banks theirits first comfortable margin of the night. The Bulldogs managed to cut the lead to 14-9, but then watched the Braves — on a couple threes, a series of Maller free throws and a late Gregg trey —— widen the gap en route to a 26-9 halftime edge.

Maller, a normally quiet contributor, managed 10 first half points and carried the torch for the Braves with her scoring, rebounding and intensity — traits seen throughout the season but infrequently found early Saturday night.

"She came out and was ready to play," Begley said. "Destiny was huge, particularly in that first quarter. It was good to see her play like that."

The Bulldogs started quick in the second half, getting an initial basket from sophomore guard Haley Edwards, then six straight points from Dayton to cut Banks' lead to 26-17. But a quick Banks basket was followed by a Katie Ragsdale three to make it 31-17, and then Braves sophomore Aspen Slifka, as if awakened from a slumber, exploded for three straight baskets to make it 37-17 and snuff out any chance of a North Bend comeback attempt.

The remainder of the game was little more than a splattering of fouls, free throws and rag-tag baskets on the way to the inevitable ending. Banks was the better team, but in a way, played like they knew it from the start.

"The girls did a lot of good things," said Begley, "But there's definitely a lot of things to work on between now and Thursday."

While the Braves certainly weren't at their best, they showed a lot despite a sub-par performance from their usual standout contributors.

"That's' the good thing about this team," Begley said. "We have different kids step up every night."

Banks was led by Sydney Gregg who scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Maller finished with 10 points.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks Aspen Slifka fights for a loose ball during Banks 55-26 playoff win over North Bend Saturday night. Banks now awaits North Marion for an opening state tournament game Thursday, March 9, at 6:30 p.m. at Forest Grove High School. The Huskies (19-5) are ranked No. 7 in the OSAA rankings and finished second in the Oregon West Conference to No. 1-ranked Cascade.

Begley expects a tough match-up.

"They'll play tough and I know they've got some shooters," he said. "But it's the state tournament — everyone's good."

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