Upsets happen. On a given night, a lesser team can topple a behemoth of the game by way of a hot shooting hand, a great defensive performance, or simply a down night for an unsuspecting favorite ill-prepared for the energy of a game opponent. Unfortunately for the Banks girls, that night wasn't tonight.
The Braves — crippled by the same things that've plagued them throughout the year — fell at the hands of No. 3-ranked Astoria, 50-31, Tuesday night, Feb. 11, at Banks High School, and in the process dropped to third place in the Cowapa League, a half game behind second place Valley Catholic.
After keeping the game close throughout the first quarter by way of a stifling defense, and even for much of the second, the Fishermen broke free of the pesky Braves in the third quarter, primarily due to an ongoing Banks theme — lack of scoring.
"We're just overthinking everything," Banks head coach Brandon Begley said. "Offensively, we don't have a lot of belief in ourselves and are struggling with confidence. As coaches, we need to put the girls in positions where they feel prepared enough that no matter what their going to face, they're going to have the confidence they need to perform."
Defensively they did a nice job. Faced with the task of defending two 6-footers, the Braves kept the ball out of the paint early-on, helping to hold the visitors to just eight first quarter points and just an 8-6 deficit.
That same defensive effort persisted in the second quarter, however offensively Banks simply couldn't get anything to fall, while equally problematic was their ability to break the Astoria full court press, which repeatedly forced the Braves into sloppy and untimely turnovers.
"We were just panicking," Begley said. "We let one or two mistakes snowball into a lot more. One mistake would get us down, then we'd play a lot tighter, and when you're playing tight you're going to make more and more mistakes."
The coach was caught a bit off-guard by the futility, primarily as the result of what he said was a quality night of preparation a day prior.
"We had a good day of practice yesterday and felt confident with the approach today," Begley said. "Then we just went out there and felt that little bit of pressure and started to panic a little bit, and started making mistakes that we shouldn't be making."
Thanks in part to the turnover situation, Banks scored just two points in the second quarter and trailed 17-8 at the half. In the second half, Astoria standout Brooklynn Hankwitz got going, scoring eight of the team's first 12 points, many of which came off of offensive rebounds. From there, the Braves loosened-up a bit on the offensive end, getting baskets from Alex Saunders, Nya Johnson, and a 3-pointer to end the quarter by Maddy Shook. But while Banks' offense got going, defensively they started to crack, leaving the home team trailing 32-18 after three quarters.
"They got some offensive rebounds and got through our defense a couple times and that let to missed assignments," Begley said. "I was really happy with the defense in the first half, and if we play that way we're going to be in every game. But we can't let one mistake dictate the rest of the game, and with these young girls that's happening to us right now."
The Braves did manage to pull within 11, 34-23, early in the fourth quarter thanks to an early Johnson basket followed by a second Shook three, but the Fishermen answered with six straight points and ultimately cruised to victory.
With the loss, Banks fell to 11-10 overall and 3-3 in the Cowapa League. With two games remaining, they're still in position to make the playoffs, and despite the loss, Begley said he likes his team and is optimistic that they can get beyond the offensive struggles that are stunting their seemingly inevitable progress.
"We'll get there," he said. "We just show our youth sometimes. Sometimes we show it through energy and excitement, and other times it's by getting down on ourselves and not taking shots. I just need to reassure them that it's okay to make mistakes or even miss shots. You're going to fail more than you succeed often in this game."
Banks was led by Saunders, Johnson and Shook who all had six points. Other Braves scorers included: Madison Walker 5, Maggie Streblow 3, Kate Hailey 3, and Hailey Evans 2.
Astoria was led by Hankwitz who scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Kelsey Fausett also added 12 points, and Hailey O'Brien 11.
The Braves are next scheduled to play Valley Catholic at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14, at Banks High School.
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