It’s roughly the Oregon high school hoops equivalent of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and North Carolina vs. Duke.
Tuesday night’s battle by the ocean went to Seaside, which rallied from an early eight-point deficit for a 60-51 win at the Gulls’ Nest.
The victory puts Seaside back atop the Cowapa standings by themselves, but before the Gulls get comfortable in the No. 1 spot, Tuesday’s contest was just the first of three meetings between Banks and Seaside. The Braves will host the league season finale Feb. 14, and — odds are — both teams will be there, March 9 at Forest Grove High School, to decide another state championship in another sport.
“We’ll see them down the road again,” said Seaside coach Bill Westerholm, whose team improves to 16-2 overall, 4-0 in the Cowapa League. “We’ll see them in the playoffs. Should be some exciting games.”
But at this point, there are no other candidates. The Braves and the Gulls are the class of Class 4A basketball. Tuesday’s game had all the appearances of a state championship preview.
Banks brought an 18-game win streak into the game, while the Gulls had won 12 in a row, including a victory over defending 5A state champion Thurston.
Banks was (and still is) rated No. 1 in the OSAA RPI poll, and Seaside is ranked No. 1 in the 4A coaches poll.
So something had to give, and it turned out to be the Braves.
Banks couldn’t handle a pressure defense the Gulls threw at the Braves, who had eight turnovers in the first half.
Combined with numerous missed shots from close range, the Braves let their 15-7 lead turn into a 16-15 deficit late in the first quarter, following baskets by Seaside’s Chase Januik, Ryan Hague and Brayden Johnson.
A 9-2 run by the Gulls midway through the second quarter gave Seaside a 34-27 advantage, but the Braves closed the first half on an 8-3 run of their own, even taking a brief lead.
Seaside’s final three points of the half came the dramatic way, with Januik sinking a shot at the buzzer from just beyond the midcourt line.
Still, “We didn’t finish the half very well,” said Seaside coach Bill Westerholm. “We should have been up six or eight. Instead we had two turnovers in a row and they scored on both to go up one, then Chase hits the half-court shot.”
And the Braves had one more rally in their system, in the third period.
A jump-hook by Blake Gobel and a 3-pointer by Jarred Evans had the Braves in front, 44-43, but that would be their final lead.
Januik hit two free throws and scored on a short jumper over the 6-foot-7 Gobel, and Hague converted an offensive rebound for a 49-44 lead.
Banks was within 49-47 at the end of the third quarter, but the Gulls scored the first five points of the fourth, and that was enough for the win.
Once Seaside had built a 51-47 lead with four minutes remaining, the Gulls simply played keep-away with the ball, and allowed the Braves to score just four points in the final period.
“The kids have been doing this since they were in the fourth grade,” coach Westerholm said. “They see they have a lead, and they start milking the clock. That has nothing to do with me. With just under four minutes left, we got patient and took about a minute off the clock.
“We knew they had to foul, so we got to the free throw line, and shot free throws pretty well in the fourth quarter.”
Seaside made just one field goal in the fourth period, and did the rest from the free throw line, making 9-of-14 to finish the game 17-for-24 at the line, to Banks’ 4-for-9.
Hague led Seaside with 20 points, followed by Januik with 16 and Payton Westerholm with 10.
Dakota Bunn had 13 for the Braves. Gobel finished with nine, but the big senior post made just one field goal through three quarters, thanks in part to a tough defense from Seaside’s Duncan Thompson.
“Duncan is kind of an unsung hero,” Westerholm said. “He only had three points tonight, but we always give him the opportunity to guard the 6-7 or 6-8 kid for the other team. And he’s a workhorse. The success we’ve had comes down to our little tiny post player.”
The coach said there were plenty of accolades to go around.
“I was very proud of the kids, the way they played full court,” he said. “We went from base line to base line. We’ve been in kind of a funk the last week and a half. We didn’t play great tonight, and we have a lot of room for improvement.
“We’ll have to improve a lot if we want to win a league championship. We have to play at Banks, and we have to take care of Valley Catholic here.”
Overall, “I was proud of our effort,” Westerholm said. “We ran a couple plays for Ryan to start the game, and he made them.
“The last game, Beau (Johnson) goes for 18, and tonight Ryan goes for 20. Chase is always going to have 14 to 20 points, and Payton can get his points. They tried to slow us down with that zone, so we got patient.
“And we got them out of sync a little,” he said of the Braves. “If you go half-court with those guys, they’re going to ‘Gobel’ you to death.”
Instead, the Gulls “Chased” and “Hagued” the Braves right out of the gym.