Top-ranked Braves smother No. 3-ranked Valley Catholic with signature team defense

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks' Trevor Geraci goes up for a lay-in during the Braves' game against Valley Catholic Jan. 19 at Banks High School.Nothing is perfect – except of course the Banks Braves boys basketball team.

Of course that isn't true, and Banks head coach Marc Roche would certainly frown at the mere assertion. But after a 16-0 start to the season, including a 56-34 win over No. 3-ranked Valley Catholic Friday night, Jan. 19, the Braves are rolling and they're in no hurry to put the brakes on what could be a very special season.

"That's a huge win," said Banks standout post Blake Gobel. "We have so much momentum right now and we just want to keep it going. We don't want anyone to shut us down, so we just have to keep it rolling."

Coach Roche agreed, acknowledging the enormousness of a win over one of the league's historically tough opponents.

"That one feels good," said Roche. "You really need to hold serve in your home games in this league, and we did a good job of showing up against a very good Valley Catholic team."

The Braves were led by Gobel, who scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds. But it wasn't on the offensive end that Banks made their hay on this night, but rather where they've done so for most of the year — defensively.

The Valiants' 34 points were about par for the course for Banks' opponents, and the second fewest points scored this season and 22 points below Valley's 2017-18 average. Coincidence? Not in the least, for this Braves team isn't about "outscoring" a team, but rather limiting their opponents' points by way of a suffocating defense both in full and half-court situations.

"The guys who came up from last year's JV squad have really picked-up the defense," said Gobel. "We have 'Z' (Zach Streblow) and Dalton who can lock guys down, and so much better help defense, it's really hard to score on us."

"Dakota Bunn is just so quick, and (Hayden) Vandehey, (Jacob) Slifka, and (Blake) Markham have helped a ton. They've been huge for us."

This night's game was a low scoring affair from the start, with Banks taking a 9-7 lead after one quarter. They quickly grew the lead to six after buckets from Gobel and reserve guard Trevor Geraci to start the second, then eight and as much as nine before Valley cut the lead back to eight, 25-17, with a free throw from junior guard Peter Boileau just before half.

"Overall I thought we played great team defense," said Roche. "I thought we did an outstanding job of limiting their two best options."

But the Valiants wouldn't quit.

Boileau started the second half where he ended the first, knocking down a pair of free throws to cut the lead to six. Then, after a bucket from Ben Robbins and an and-1 from standout forward Andrew Plambeck, Banks' lead was just 29-24 and the Valiant faithful who made the trip from Beaverton still had hope.

Yet, that's where the comeback would end.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks' Blake Gobel goes up for a put-back following an offensive rebound during the Braves' game against Valley Catholic Jan. 19 at Banks High School.The Braves' Bunn answered with a three, Gobel made a pair of free throws, and when Slifka and junior guard Bret Cameron ended the third quarter with a pair of treys, Banks led 40-28 headed to the fourth and on the back of its defense appeared in no jeopardy of relinquishing the lead to a Valiant team lacking offensive potency — at least on this night.

"Plambeck is a great shooter, but he just hasn't been making them of late," said Gobel.

And Roche agreed that Valley appeared a bit off from distance.

"Some of those guys can shoot, but they did appear reluctant," said the coach. "And that might be because they've got some new guys."

Banks cruised from there, outscoring Valley 16-6 in the final quarter. But while struggling a bit offensively, this year's iteration of Braves boys basketball can survive a tough night with the ball, because they do the bulk of their work without it.

"We definitely didn't get a great night offensively from our "big" guys, but everyone is a threat," said Roche. "Dalton and Blake don't feel like they need to do it all this year, and I think that's opened things up for other guys. We have a lot of options this year."

And how about the defense? Roche endorsed Gobel's theory regarding the new blood on this year's roster.

"The biggest change is the JV guys are role guys that are defense-first guys," Roche said. "They come in and bring up the energy and take a lot of pressure off our 'big guys.' What's awesome is, these guys don't want to be the scorer, they're okay passing the ball."

And it's that type of grit and selflessness that makes this team different.

In addition to Gobel, the Braves were led by Slifka's nine points and Renne's eight.

Jack Grasberger and Jack Tetzloff led Valley with seven points apiece.

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