Facing two very tough teams can add a pretty good reason to play to one's greatest ability.
Walker Bannister, of Fannett-Metal boys basketball, made sure to do that this week when the Tigers faced off against Sideling Hill League opponents Everett and Tussey Mountain. Bannister scored 44 points, including a double-double against Tussey, to lead Fannett-Metal to two victories.
He is the Public Opinion Male Athlete of the Week.
"The whole team stepped up, and we all worked together," Bannister said. "I was just aligned on the scoring end."
In a 71-64 win over Everett on Wednesday, Bannister scored 17 points, including nine points in the final quarter. He had three 3-pointers, one of which gave the Tigers a one-point lead in the fourth.
"He will always take the big shot when we need him to," Fannett-Metal coach Greg Best said.
He then followed that victory with a 89-80 defeat of Tussey Mountain on Friday. In that game, Bannister had 27 points and 11 rebounds.
The junior had some serious motivation to do well: It was the first time the Tigers have beaten Tussey Mountain since 2009. It was also Best's 100th victory.
"When Jordan (Hurrell) pulled us aside and told us, he said there was a more to play for," Bannister said. "It just added more to the fire of wanting to beat them."
Although Best said he was sure the kids wanted to win that game for him, he didn't think there was any extra pressure.
"That was just an added bonus for all of us," Best said. "I never even thought of it or brought it up, but I guess the kids knew it. I don't think we were expected to win, so they were just playing for something extra."
In addition to playing basketball, Bannister also plays soccer in the fall. Best said he thinks the two sports have skills that compliment each other.
"Coming into the middle (in soccer), he covers a lot of area with his speed," Best said. "I think that goes into the court. But it's also just maturity and confidence."
Working during the offseason also probably helped Bannister's confidence, which has led to his high-potent production. He has already scored nearly 100 points in just four games and is averaging 23.5 per game.
"I wasn't expecting this high of numbers, but I was expecting to be better than last year becaue I improved my game a lot over the summer," Bannister said. "It feels great just to know that I can get that many points for my team."
Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or email@example.com.
Walker Bannister, Fannett-Metal
Name: Walker Bannister
Sport: Boys basketball
Parents: James and Melissa Bannister.
Interests: Bannister also plays soccer and has participated in track and field
Surprising fact: He likes to sleep before game.
Favorite pro team: Boston Celtics.
Pro athlete most admired: Dwyane Wade, of the Miami Heat.
Most influential person in athletic career: His grandfather, Bill Baker.
Statistics: This week, Bannister had 44 points in two games. He had a double-double with 27 points and 11 rebounds in Friday's victory over Tussey Mountain, 89-80.