You can't win them all, so often in the wake of a loss, it's not so much about the loss itself, but more about what you can take from that defeat that can help you going forward.
The Banks boys lost to Seaside 58-51 Thursday night, Feb. 20, at Seaside High School, and in the process missed an opportunity to clinch the Cowapa League championship, earn the league's No. 1-seed, and secure a home game in the first round of the upcoming state playoffs. But while disappointed, the coaching staff and the team as a whole chose not to look at the negatives in the aftermath, but rather what they learned that can help them going forward.
"Obviously offensively we weren't at our best, but defensively I think we did pretty well," Banks' Jacob Slifka said. "We took away their guys, so we're happy with that, and played with intensity, which we haven't done in a couple of games. So you want to take the positives from those and then get ready for Tuesday because we know that's a game we've got to win."
With the two teams now splitting the Cowapa League regular season title, they'll play again Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Tillamook High School in order to decide the league's top-seed. The winner will then be in line to host an opening round playoff game, while the loser will likely be forced to travel as far as Baker for their opener.
Banks head coach Mark Roche echoed many of Slifka's statements after the game, and overall was pleased with his team's effort in defeat.
"I'm definitely encouraged," the coach said. "We played better tonight than we have in our last few games and I was pleased with how we rose to the occasion. They're a tough team and this is a tough place to play, so you have to bring it for 32 minutes, and I think for the most part we did that."
In a way the Braves (7-1, 16-6) were fortunate to be in the game, considering the fact that it was a tough night on the offensive end for two of their more prominent players. Standouts Jacob Slifka and Jarred Evans weren't at their best, combining for 16 points, but doing so amidst more than a handful of uncharacteristic mistakes, including turnovers and missed opportunities at the rim. But while an off night for them, their supporting cast kept the team in it.
Jack Walker led the team with nine points, Caiden Taylor contributed solid minutes in the first half, Cooper Gobel hit a big second half three, and sophomore Charles White scored five points, got some key rebounds and even hit from distance late in the game to close the gap.
"We have guys depth-wise that can really help us out, so that was great," Roche said. "They gave us really good minutes."
The same could be said for Seaside (7-1, 17-4), who were also led by their supporting cast.
Sophomore point guard Everest Sibony led the Seagulls with 12 points, 10 of which he scored in the first half, and they also got seven points from seldom used Gavin Rich. Their "Big 3" of Beau and Brayden Johnson, along with Ryan Hague, combined for 25 points, but took a lot of shots to do it and got a third of them late from the free throw line.
"I was really happy with our role guys tonight," Seaside head coach Bill Westerholm said. "Everest Sibony came in and was real confident. He missed his first shot but hit some big ones after that, and Gavin Rich came in and did a nice job as well."
The Seagulls took a 15-11 lead after a quarter and appeared ready to open the game up when they scored the first six points of the second, then after a Cade Buchanan score, added four more from Sibony to take a 25-13 lead. But Banks answered, getting a three from Taylor, a free throw from Slifka, another three from Walker, and when Evans made one of two free throws just before half, the Seaside lead was 27-21 as the two teams headed for the locker room.
"They really hurt us in that first half rebounding the ball," Roche said. "I think they outscored us like 20-10 in the paint tonight, and a lot of that came in the first half. That easy stuff inside really was the difference in the game."
But it wasn't over yet.
The two teams for the most part traded baskets in the third quarter, with the Seagulls lead hovering between three and nine points. Seaside led 46-39 at the end of the third, then made it 48-39 when Beau Johnson connected on short jumper to start the fourth. At that point the Braves caught fire, getting a lay-in from Tyler Exline and five straight points from White to cut the lead to 48-46 with 4:40 to go in the contest. After a defensive stop, Exline then hit a corner three to give Banks the lead, and for the first time it appeared it was the Braves that had the upper hand.
Not for long.
Stephen Snyder scored to give the Seagulls the lead back, then two Beau Johnson free throws put the home team back up by three, 52-49, and things started to unravel for Banks.
Evans missed a three, Slifka was then short on another 3-point attempt, and while the Braves' shots continued to miss the mark, Seaside's free throw attempts didn't, and the rest was history.
"We have to execute a little better down the stretch," Roche said. "We had it right there, and got some decent looks, but not great ones."
Slifka was noticeably disappointed with his performance after the game, but was also excited for the guys that stepped up and happy with what that might mean for them all going forward.
"I did not have a good game," he said, "But I was pumped for everyone else who played well, because I played bad and that's super important. You can't rely on one person and that's not what we do. This just proves that we can play on the road and beat good teams at their places, and that's going to help us in the playoffs."
Westerholm understood the magnitude of this game, and was complimentary of both teams afterwards.
"We're both high caliber teams and both have an opportunity to win a state championship," Westerholm said. "Both teams have played well at times, but both of us have struggled at times. But whenever we face each other you're going to get spurts of pretty good play, and we got the best of the spurts tonight."
The game was potentially the last varsity boys game in the historic Seaside gym, for Seaside opens a new high school this coming fall. So while pleased with everything that came with the win, Westerholm was particularly pleased to have that last moment in what has been a special place for the Seaside native.
"These kids have grown up watching teams in front of them win big games and I'm glad they had the opportunity to win a big game here," the coach said. "I grew up as a kid here. I made my first basket here in this gym and remember watching teams in 1976 with Coach Elliott's squads, so it was important for us to do the things we needed to do to possibly get a win tonight and end it on a good note."
Banks scorers included: Walker 9, Slifka 8, Evans 8, Exline 6, Gobel 5, White 5, Joseph Buliga 5, Taylor 3, Buchanan 2.
Seaside scorers included: Sibony 12, Snyder 10, Brayden Johnson 10, Beau Johnson 8, Hague 7, Rich 7, Ledger Pugh 2, Conner Langmo 2.
The league tiebreaker game is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Tillamook High School.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.