BANKS — The present belongs to the Banks Braves, but the future of Cowapa League girls basketball has ‘Astoria’ written all over it, as the Lady Fishermen showed Tuesday night in Banks.
Playing without starting point guard and leading scorer Sam Hemsley, the Fishermen still pushed the No. 5-ranked Braves to the limit, before Banks was able to escape their own gym with a 66-61 victory.
The win clinches the league title for the Braves, now 9-0 in league, 21-2 overall. Still, the Lady Fish were never out of the game, and even found themselves in a 53-53 tie in the closing minutes.
Astoria held early leads in the first quarter, but the Braves were soon up 22-13, thanks to 11 points in the opening period by Aspen Slifka.
But Slifka eventually slipped into foul trouble, and Astoria took advantage.
Sophomore Brooklynn Hankwitz played a solid game in the post, and McKailyn Rogers, sophomore Julia Norris and freshman Kelsey Fausett sparked Astoria from the outside.
Fausett opened the second quarter with back-to-back jump shots. Rogers banked in a 3-pointer later in the period, and Banks held a slim 35-24 lead at halftime.
The Fishermen continued their hot streak in the third quarter. After falling behind 53-39, Astoria charged back with a 14-0 run, capped by back-to-back treys from Rogers early in the fourth that tied the game at 53-53.
Baskets by Jessi Wren and Slifka helped push the Banks’ lead back to 60-53, but Astoria answered with 3-pointers by freshman Sophia Long and Norris, trimming the deficit to 63-61 with 30 seconds left.
That’s as close as the Fishermen would come, as Hankwitz and Fausett both fouled out in the closing minutes, while the Braves made 7-of-8 free throws in the final 1:37.
Slifka — who missed almost half the second half — led all players with 22 points, while Hankwitz led a trio of Astoria players in double figures with 16. Fausett and Rogers each had 15.
Astoria has clinched third place in the league standings at 5-4, 13-9 overall.