GLADSTONE -- It’s only been a few weeks since Banks won its first football state championship.
Now the Braves boys basketball team, which features seven players from that football roster, is plotting another run at the top.
The quest is off to a promising start, and got a boost Friday night when No. 2 Banks dug deep to steal a 62-60 overtime win at No. 7 Gladstone in a 4A nonleague game. After losing to 5A Pendleton in their opener, the Braves have reeled off six consecutive wins, three over ranked opponents.
State semifinalists last season, they have some unfinished business, football accomplishments aside.
“Personally, I don’t feel any hangover, and I don’t think any of our guys do, either,” said junior forward Jacob Slifka, one of the football players. “I think it gives us an extra boost of confidence to play these games and know that we can win. We want that feeling again, for sure.”
Friday’s nip-and-tuck game against the Gladiators (2-3) was just another example of the group’s competitive will.
“All the football guys we have, the success they had there, I think definitely transfers over,” Banks coach Marc Roche said. “They don’t quit, they keep fighting through, and they stay together.”
The Braves (6-1), who have beaten No. 9 Philomath and No. 4 Stayton, were on the ropes against Gladstone. The Gladiators led 53-51 and had the ball after Braves senior guard Hayden Vandehey missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity with 14 seconds left.
After a timeout, Gladstone inbounded and the clock ticked down as Banks tried in vain to foul. But Braves junior guard Jarred Evans got a steal in the backcourt and fed Vandehey, who missed a short runner in the lane, only to have senior guard Dakota Bunn rebound and score at the buzzer to force overtime.
Blake Gobel, a 6-foot-7 senior post and a fourth-year starter, was a force in overtime, scoring six of his team’s nine points. He got a steal and breakaway dunk and added an inside hoop to make it 59-54.
After Gladstone rallied to tie 60-60 on a putback by sophomore wing Jude Ashpole with 25 seconds left, Gobel hit one of two free throws for a 61-60 lead with nine seconds remaining.
The Gladiators had a chance to take the lead, but the Braves stripped the ball from senior guard Damian Zaines on the drive, and Vandehey was fouled on the ensuing leakout. He hit one of two free throws to make it 62-60 with 0.4 seconds to go, and Gladstone senior Drew Pulsipher missed a halfcourt shot as time expired.
“I’m pleased with how we responded,” Roche said. “It wasn’t our best game. We put pressure on them at the end, forced a couple of turnovers.”
Gobel said the win “shows a lot of grit. We got that clutch bucket to go to overtime, and we just grinded it out from there. It was a great team effort.”
The Braves are slowly finding their basketball legs.
“It took us that first week, and we kind of got it going after that first tournament we had,” Gobel said. “We kind of have it figured out now. We can make a deep run in the playoffs, I believe.”
Slifka scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the first half for Banks, which also got 21 points from Bunn and 14 points from Gobel. The 6-4 Ashpole led Gladstone with 18 points.
It was a crushing loss for the Gladiators, who were coming off an 83-76 double-overtime loss at Stayton on Tuesday. Since opening with two wins, they have lost three in a row.
“It’s adversity,” Gladstone coach Cody Aker said. “That’s the big piece. Now we’ve got to come back. There are definitely learning moments from this.”