Hot shooting gives White Buffalos early lead over Banks, but they lose traction in second half en route to 102-58 loss.

WADE EVANSON/FOR THE PIONEER - Banks throws a pass up court as Kanim Smith and Donnie Bagley, 22, look on during Saturday's first-round playoff game.
A barrage of Madras 3-point shooting and backcourt pressure flustered Banks, the No. 1-ranked 4A team, early in Saturday's first-round playoff game.

But Banks withstood the opening flurry from Madras and ultimately routed the White Buffalos 102-58 at Banks High.

Banks senior Dalton Renne led all scorers with 31 points, and junior post Blake Gobel added 27 points and eight rebounds to help the Braves overcome an unorthodox Madras team who had Banks' attention before and throughout Saturday afternoon's contest.

"I'm relieved," said Banks head coach Marcus Roche. "This is a style we haven't played against and they came out firing. They hit some shots, they had energy, so I'm pleased our guys weathered that storm in the first half."

Madras, the 4A's highest scoring team, hit four quick 3s and led for much of the first quarter before Banks finished the first with a 23-19 lead. But the Braves were noticeably flustered by the White Buffalos' early pressure, and showed some first- round nerves with countless misses at the rim and a handful of errant pass attempts both in transition and in the half-court.

"We got them to turn the ball a little bit early on, and then we were able to score off those turnovers," Madras head coach Evan Brown said.

WADE EVANSON/FOR THE PIONEER - Madras senior Kanim Smith (right) contests a Blake Gobel shot during Saturday's game. Smith led the Buffs with 17 points and four rebounds. Gobel scored 27 points for the Braves.
Madras was led by Kanim Smith, who had 17 points. Byron Patt added 15.

"They started off looking real good, so we did get a little nervous," said Gobel. "We just had to get in the game and settle in."

And that they did.

Banks ended the half on 16-2 run, giving the home Braves a 14-point cushion at the half and spring-boarding them to what would be a 59-29 second- half edge.

"They put that little run on us right at the end of the half, and then in the third quarter is when they really put one on us," Brown said. "The third quarter they outscored us 32-10. That was pretty much game, set and match right there."

Gobel acknowledged some first-half nerves, primarily due to Madras' style and a bit as a result of some sloppy practices early in the week.

"At the beginning of the week, when we heard how they play we didn't really know what to think," he said. "We practiced hard but had a couple of iffy practices, but then had a good one yesterday and got it going."

With the game tied 27-27 midway through the second quarter, Gobel scored eight straight to give the Braves their first cushion of the game. Then after a Patt basket for Madras, Renne scored twice and sophomore Jacob Slifka added a bucket before the half to put Banks ahead 43-29 at the half.

Renne and Gobel kept things going in the third quarter, scoring eight of the Braves' first 10 points to increase the lead to 22 just a few minutes in. But it was the defense that changed the game, limiting the White Buffalos' looks and quickly getting into transition to create easy baskets at the other end.

"I think we did a great job of contesting shots and getting rebounds in that second half," said Roche. "We competed better and kept attacking. We have a lot of guys that can shoot threes, but we knew that wasn't the best way to attack these guys percentage- wise."

It never got any closer from there, as Banks continued to pile it on with a series of steals and transition lay-ins. But despite the lopsided victory, the Braves got an early test from Madras and were able to shake off the rust from two weeks off and prior to next week's state tournament.

"Coming into the game I was expecting a good game," Renne said. "I respect them. They've had some good games and they've been playing well, and in the playoffs anything can happen. But we executed tonight and I thought we played well."

The end result, while not what Madras had in mind, was quite a turnaround from the preseason, when the Buffs stumbled out of the gate with a 3-9 record. But they recovered, winning 10 of their next 12 games, including an 8-2 Tri-Valley Conference record.

"We really got better throughout the season," Brown said. "Our growth that took place from December through February was huge. To be able to play into March just really speaks of the improvement this team made throughout the season."

Madras faced a tough draw in Banks, but it also saw what it takes to be a top-tier team like Banks. Though Madras will graduate Smith, Tyler Lockey, Chad Thurby and Lewis Fine, a solid young core returns to build on the experience of this season.

Pioneer sports editor Will Denner contributed reporting to this story.

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