Banks' defensive pressure forces 21 Molalla turnovers on the night, Indians see some resilience in 16-3 third quarter

For the second year now, the Molalla girls' basketball season opener against Banks hasn't gone exactly as planned.

On Thursday night, the Braves gave an offensive performance that showed only slight signs of cracking as they delivered a 62-36 loss to the Indians in both teams' season opener.

Banks took an early lead, going up 11-0 on a layup and two free throws from junior Aspen Slifka followed by a three-pointer and a layup from junior Rylie Kind before Molalla junior Mattie Myers had an answer, sinking a short jumper to get on the board.

Senior Alicia Schultz connected soon after from beyond the arch to make it a six-point game, but the Indians struggled with the Braves' size – with four players listed at five-foot ten-inches or taller on their roster – and couldn't seem to get their defensive rebounding in line. The Braves also played solid zone defense that forced the Indians to turn the ball over 21 times on the night, leading to a number of fast break points for Banks.

"It looked like a preseason game for us, and [like] Banks was in midseason form," Molalla head coach Phil Wiesner said. "We got off to a bad start in the first quarter by not taking care of the ball and then when we did, settling for jump shots instead of getting it in the paint; Banks is a great defensive team, and we played right into their hands."

After taking a 22-5 lead into the second quarter, the Braves continued their momentum as Molalla began to pick things up, getting the ball moving around to make an attempt at breaking the Banks defense up.

"14 of our 15 field goals came off assists, so we can pass it well; we just need to be more consistent," Wiesner said.

Molalla senior Hailey Holas connected for three after Banks sophomore Madie Wick landed her own, followed by a short jumper from Schultz to shorten the lead to 12 as Banks called a timeout halfway through the quarter. The Indians couldn't seem to get much going in transition, which was a strong asset of their game last season.

After a three from Banks junior Gracie Nelson, Schultz grabbed a steal and converted on the fast break layup, but Banks Senior Sydney Gregg drained a three-pointer with two seconds left in the half to give Banks a 38-15 lead.

"We came out with a lot of energy that definitely helped us, and we did a really good job pushing the ball up the floor, so we were able to get a lot of easy points off of transitions, so I think that was a big key to our success tonight," Gregg said after the game.

But when the game resumed after the half, it was a different ballgame as Molalla completely turned things around on Banks and ended up outscoring them 16-3; if not for a last-second three from Nelson, the Braves would've been scoreless on the quarter.

"That's kind of been our history; in the third quarter, we come out a little dry, not very high off of the energy like we were going into halftime," Gregg said. "But after the third quarter, I think we did a good job of stepping back and getting some energy flowing into the fourth quarter."

After trailing by 23 at the half, the Indians closed the gap to ten points and had a shot at making a comeback in the fourth quarter.

But the Braves were able to compose themselves and come out on a 9-1 run in the first couple of minutes, essentially closing the door on Molalla's chances. Slifka and senior Kim Jordan grabbed five, while Gregg made two of three free throws after taking a foul to put Banks up by 20 with 4:30 left in the game. Molalla couldn't keep the pressure on as the final buzzer rang in Banks' favor.

Schultz said that their effort in the third quarter was the level they need to play at all game, and that transitions and turnovers hurt them the most Thursday night.

"We had quite a few turnovers, which we definitely need to work on; Banks is a great team with solid players all around," Schultz said. "They were playing a good zone, and I think that probably got to us a little bit."

"Most of the game, I think we were having the right ideas on where the ball needed to be … but because our timing was off, we weren't able to execute."

Schultz said the fairly new starting rotation is still getting used to each other, what with a good number of key seniors graduating last year. But Schultz, senior Sierra Cox, junior Mattie Myers, and sophomore Maddy Lisac all have good chemistry. In addition, a few freshmen – Zoe Wood, Kaityn Curry, and Jackie Parker – have stepped up and all earned significant playing time against Banks.

"We have a great group of underclassmen who have really been stepping up; I think our team has a lot of potential," Schultz said. "I think the effort is there and we were all working really hard, we just need to get the timing down."

For Banks, Gregg said they'll be looking to dial some things in during the rest of their preseason schedule to prepare for the always tough Cowapa League.

"Our coach keeps reminding us that we have a really challenging preseason, so I'm looking forward to the competitiveness, and then hopefully that will prepare us for our tough league and see some success from it," Gregg said. "I like our transition a lot; we have a lot of young girls, but they're really fresh and quick, so they're able to move up and down the floor really well. I think our defense will need a little work, but we've got a good foundation down."

Up next for Banks is a home game against Stayton on Dec. 5, while Molalla will take on Saint Francis de Sales of Australia on Dec. 6 at home.

Molalla – 36

Cox – 5; Holas – 3; Myers – 4; Fincher – 4; Wood – 2 ; Schultz – 18

Banks – 62

Jordan – 7; Wick – 3; Nelson – 5 ; Merritt – 3; Belden – 3; Slifka – 17; Gregg – 17; Kind – 7

Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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