- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Perhaps no player on the basketball floor had more duties than Westlake Wolverines junior Damira Banks on Wednesday night at Chopticon.
Banks led the team in scoring with 22 points, but more importantly, she was delivered the task of guarding Chopticon’s primary ball handler, junior Ty Priest, for the majority of the game, for all of the later parts of regulation and eventually into overtime, with barely any rest.
Consider Banks’ mission accomplished.
Banks and the Wolverines outlasted the Braves, 60-56. And when asked where the energy came from to lead on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, Banks said, “That’s heart. That’s just heart.”
Westlake head coach Ardell Jackson realized that his high-energy guard was a key component in the victory Wednesday, Westlake’s fourth-straight win, which doubled as its regular-season finale.
“She is in shape,” Jackson said of Banks. “That kid works hard; I mean she works hard. She is a track star, soccer player, a three-sport athlete, and she just works extremely hard. She is always pushing.”
The Wolverines built a lead as large as 47-36 at the 4 minute and 33 second mark of the fourth period on a Breanna Gleaton (11 points) basket, but a 12-1 Chopticon run tied the game at 48 with 1:25 remaining in regulation helped set up a Priest three-point basket at the buzzer, which sent the contest into overtime.
“It feels good that we held ourselves down and didn’t let it get [to] our feelings and affect the rest of the game,” Banks said of the buzzer-beater.
Banks led the team in scoring in the overtime period with three points, each point from the free-throw line, where she made 14 of 18 (78 percent) for the game. After giving up an 11-point lead, she was sure the win was the right way to close out the regular season.
“That was a good win, and I feel good,” Banks said. “I think that was one of the best games we have had.”
Westlake (16-6, 10-2 SMAC) opened the third period with an 11-0 run after being down 29-24 at halftime. Banks scored four of the 11.
She and the Wolverines held Chopticon to only four third-quarter points before eventually building the 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
“They just worked hard, and this is playoff basketball,” Jackson said of his team. ”Our whole thing has been to maintain and then execute at the end. [Chopticon] hit the buzzer-beater, and I told [my girls], ‘Hey, those shots happen, but at the end of the day, we have four more minutes to play our style of basketball.’”
Despite suffering an ankle injury at the start of the overtime period, Shanea Butler added 11 points in the win to join both Banks and Gleaton as the Westlake double-digit scorers.
With the regular season complete, Jackson and the Wolverines will set their sights on the Class 3A South Region playoffs.
“That was our goal, to go out there to win these last four games and try to get ourselves prepared and ready,” Jackson said. “At this point, we’re taking every game as a playoff game. We felt like that if we lost, we were going home.”
Chopticon (15-6, 7-4) overcame the 11-point deficit and had the momentum heading into overtime after Priest converted a three-point basket as time expired.
However, the junior guard fouled out of the contest with 3:18 left in overtime and was retired from the contest with 23 points, a game high.
“Going into overtime, I was thinking, ‘We got this,’” Priest said. “We had to go out there with more intensity because I know [Westlake] wanted it, too.”
Chopticon will close out its regular season hosting Leonardtown at 6:30 tonight, and Priest is happy with her teammates going in after the performance Wednesday night, despite the loss.
“We worked together really well,” Priest said. “Once we calmed down and set up our offense, we worked well together. We started to slow things down, and shots started to fall more.”