FOREST GROVE — Sage Kramer scored 18 points to lead Philomath to a 45-43 win Thursday against Banks and a berth in the 4A state girls basketball semifinals.
After falling to Banks 52-51 in its second game of the season back on Dec. 5, Philomath wasn’t going to let this one slip away, beating the Braves when it mattered most.
“It’s really special. We lost to them by one last time, so it was really nice to come back and beat them,” sophomore Mia Rust said. “No one on our team has been here before and now to be here in the final four is an amazing feeling.”
Philomath was clinging to a 37-36 lead with 3:30 left before making a decisive push.
The two teams exchanged free throws over the final minutes of action, but it was the Warriors who held the 43-39 lead with 55.5 seconds remaining.
The Warriors secured a stop on defense, but missed two free throws that could have made it a two-possession contest.
The end result was one last chance for Banks to tie the game with 16.5 remaining.
Philomath’s defense came up big once again, forcing a 3-point miss from Aspen Slifka before icing the game with two Emma Pankalla free throws that put the Warriors up 45-40. Slifka hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was the gold and black celebrating as the Warriors moved on.
“I’m extremely proud,” PHS coach Ben Silva said. “They’ve worked hard, and they deserve this. We’ve grown very close this year and I’m especially happy for our seniors to get this experience from where they’ve come.”
Kramer, who finished with 18 points, five rebounds and two assists, showed poise beyond her age as she helped lead the Warriors to the upset of the third-seeded Braves.
“Sage is phenomenal at scoring the ball,” Silva said. “She does a great job and is a very refined player for a freshman. It’s what she does for us on a nightly basis, so we expect it from her. It’s wild considering she’s 14 years old, but she has a lot of poise.”
Said Kramer, “It was amazing. I knew from when we lost that game that we were going to play them again and it would be our time.”
The Warriors defense was the difference in the game as they held the Braves to just 29 percent shooting from the field.
“We did a great job with our team defense tonight,” Silva said. “We were flying around and executing our game plan which was trying to frustrate them and make things difficult.”
The Banks-heavy crowd made the neutral court more of a home-court advantage for the Braves, but it didn’t faze the Warriors who stayed focused and locked in from start to finish.
Rust, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds, noted that while the Braves’ crowd certainly brought the energy, it was the Warriors who fed off it.
“It was almost like a home game for Banks,” Rust said. “They were really loud, had a lot of fans and brought really good energy. It was definitely hard, but we knew we had to tune them out and do what we do.”
Behind nine points from Kramer in the first quarter, the Warriors started strong, building a 17-13 lead at the end of one.
After a high-flying first, things tightened up in the second quarter as the two teams combined for 12 points and tied at 21-21 headed into the halftime break.
Back-to-back 3s from Kramer and Emma Pankalla gave PHS a 29-23 lead with 4:29 left in the third, but Banks answered with five straight points to narrow the deficit to 29-27 with 3:30 remaining in the third.
At the end of three, Philomath held a 33-30 lead thanks to an uptick in defensive pressure and intensity that forced the Braves into tough shots.
The Warriors (23-3) will face second seeded Baker (23-1) in the semifinals at Forest Grove High School at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“Baker is a really tough team. They play a lot of full-court man-to-man, are very physical and athletic, and like to get out and run," Silva said. "They have a couple very tough players who are going to be hard to stop, so we’re going to watch the film and come up with a solid game plan.”
Philomath 45, Banks 43
Thursday at Forest Grove
PHILOMATH (23-3) 17 4 12 12 — 45
BANKS (20-6) 13 8 9 13 — 43
Philomath: Sage Kramer 7 3-4 18, Emma Pankalla 2 4-4 9, Mia Rust 3 2-9 8, Lauren Berklund 3 0-2 6, Braedyn McNeely 1 0-0 2, Rivers Nuno 1 0-0 2, Lara Hunter 0 0-0 0, Sydney Bradley 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 9-19 45.
Banks: Aspen Slifka 7 1-3 16, Kaylin Hernandez 3 0-0 9, Gracie Nelson 2 2-2 7, Rylie Kind 2 3-8 7, Maggie Streblow 0 2-2 2, Nya Johnson 0 2-2 2, Naomi Buliga 0 0-0 0, Mary Merritt 0 0-0 0, Kate Hailey 0 0-0 0, Maddy Shook 0 0-0 0, Betta Minervini 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 10-17 43.