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With a career high 34 points, Kutztown High junior Hannah Bankes helped her team take a tough Brandywine Heights team (5-1 in the league) to overtime on Jan. 17. The Bullets were able to pull the game out in the end, but the Cougars came oh so close to a very big win for the team.
The lost left Kutztown two games behind Brandywine (winning that game would have tied the two teams) for that all-important second place spot in Division 3 and a berth in the playoffs.
It was the second time the Lady Cougars lost to Brandywine so it will be an uphill struggle to catch the Bullets. But Kutztown can still make the playoffs by earning one of the two wild card spots.
At 3-3, the Cougars are still in the hunt and Bankes is doing all she can to help her team reach that goal. With her 34 point performance against Brandywine Heights, Bankes is averaging 19.4 points a game, which leads the county in that category.
“I’m happy with my season so far, but as an athlete I’m always pushing myself to be better after every game,” said Bankes. “I think about what I could have done different, what was good, but could be better in order to improve my game every time I take the court.
“We (the team) have to just keep firing on all cylinders. We need to continue to working together, depending on each other, listening to Coach Tim and we will win games.”
Bankes started playing basketball when she was in third grade. She played for several local teams like Showtime, The Storm and Dynamite. She then decided she wanted to play with players from out of the county, so she joined Mike Flynn’s AAU team, the Philly Belles last summer. She plans to play with the Belles again this summer.
“I was exposed to the type of player I want to become,” said Bankes about her experience on the Philly Belles. “I need to become that type of player in order to compete at the collegiate level.”
Bankes made an impact on the Kutztown High School team right off the bat. She got significant playing time in her freshman season and scored 152 points. She became a regular starter as a sophomore when she scored 348 points (sixth in the league), averaging 15.1 points a game (fourth in the league).
This year she’s played her best ball yet, her nearly 20 points a game average being helped by her 83.7% free throw percentage, second in the league. Already she has attracted the attention of several D-1 colleges who are actively recruiting her. As a junior, she still has time to make that decision.
It’s hard work that makes a good athlete great, and that’s certainly the case in Bankes. But in her case, it’s more than that. She believes it’s what’s inside a person that makes the difference.
“I believe that anyone’s true success comes from within,” said Bankes. “If I didn’t have the drive, the passion, the determination to continue playing strong and learning from my mistakes, then I would become a stagnant player. That’s why after each game I reflect on the good things and learn from the bad - andpractice, practice, practice in order to keep growing game by game.”
Clearly, she contributes to the team’s success mostly by her scoring. But she doesn’t put pressure on herself to put up huge numbers every night. She knows she has help when she needs it.
“I always want the win, because we are all out there working hard for the same goal,” she said. “It doesm’t matter if I score 50 points and they score 60 and we lose. There’s no joy in that. My points don’t come solely from me. I can’t do what I do alone. Without the amazing assists from my teammates such as Amy Neumann, Amy Mucelli or Kennedy Miller, who see me when I’m open for that spit second and thread me the ball, or without Joei Ruth, Katrina Billig and Rachel Fegely playing strong defense, protecting our bucket and making big plays that impact the game, we wouldn’t win. My scoring is just a part of it. We all have a role to play and if we do that, then we win games. It doesn’t just take me, it takes us all.”
Bankes is a highly motivated and hard working player and that has rubbed off on the rest of the team. She hopes enough has rubbed off that the team can make a run at the end of the season and make the playoffs. That has yet to be determined.