By Jeremy McDonald
BANKS, Ore.– The Eagles had a start for the ages against the second-ranked Braves of Banks High School in the First Round of the OSAA 4A Playoffs.
Leading 12-10 after one, all was well until the Braves flexed their muscles and would go on to outscore Stayton 43-20 in the 53-32 victory.
“The first quarter we were sticking with them and were super excited about that,” said Alyssa Lindemann. “We got all of our confidence up, they were hard to shoot on them and we had a tough time shooting after that.
“After the first quarter, we were pumped up and thought we could stay with them. They’re a good team.”
When the whistle blew to start the game, Stayton showed the rust of the second-ranked team in Banks by holding them to four total points through the opening four minutes of the game.
The first points of the game didn’t happen until the 5:49 mark when the Braves flexed their defensive muscle as Mariah Hollenbeck hit a three to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead early.
As both teams traded blows, Lindemann had the final say in the opening frame with a buzzer beating three-pointer to give Stayton a 12-10 lead entering the second quarter.
But the lead would not last as Banks went on a 10-2 run to build an eight point lead with two minutes to play in the half behind a suffocating defense and transitional offense.
The Braves lead grew to 11 by halftime.
“When things were going bad, they were going bad,” described Lady Eagles Head Coach Melissa Hollenbeck. “Not just for us, but for them too. But we just couldn’t capitalize on their mistakes.
“You know, it’s one of those things we have to learn to play tough and being able to finish It off, finish off those easy baskets.”
Tess Hendricks would cut the lead to 10 with a free throw, and Lindemann got it to nine early in the frame, but Stayton struggled to duplicate their first quarter success around Banks.
Junior Tess Hendricks described how the Braves crowd affected them down the stretch.
“It hurts knowing that we could’ve played better than we did,” said Hendricks. “But I think a lot of the crowd and playing here got into our heads.”
But through the bitterness of how this year ended, there are some positives.
They got to the brackets, they’re a young team, only losing two seniors on a team of 12 and this experience of playing in these hostile situations, confidence is there for the future.
“I think it gives us a taste of what playoffs will be like next year,” said Hendricks. “And it’ll make us want it even more and prepare for it in the early season.”
Lindemann added that this exposure this year, adding in what the foundation they’ve built to this point, will help them next year as to grow off of this year’s success.
“Every year we’ve gone a little bit further in the bracket,” added Lindemann. “So I think next year we’re going to push as hard as we can to get past these teams. We’ve have most of girls back so I think we’re determined to get to State next year.
“I think it showed us what State will be like for us next year and how hard the teams are going to be. How good and experienced they are.”
For Hollenbeck, in her five years as Head Coach of Stayton, four made it to the bracket and has improved every year to this point.
And she hopes that this trend continues into the future.
“Hopefully it’ll light a fire for them next season,” “Hopefully they’ll look back and reflect on where they have been and where they’ve come. Out of the five season’s I’ve coached I’ve taken teams, four of them, into postseason and each and every year we’ve improved that and improved on our record.
“And I hope they build that momentum as they go forward and continue out the strong tradition of Stayton basketball that I’ve tried to build and bring to the program and reflect upon that and see that I have brought to this program.”
Jeremy McDonald is a professional sports journalist in the Salem/Portland area and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalist in Oregon with B.S. degrees from Southern Oregon University in Journalism (2011) and Health/PE (2013). Got a story idea? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @J_McDonald81