Sunnyside Christian Coach Al Smeenk, at the helm of the Lady Knights basketball program since its inception, reached a milestone yesterday afternoon. His girls team gave him his 400th coaching victory.
Smeenk is in his 23rd year of coaching the Lady Knights. He has averaged 18 wins a season, a mark that nearly every prep coach in the state, probably the country, would gladly take.
"A friend of mine told me yesterday that 400 wins only means I'm getting old," Smeenk laughed.
But if you talk to the man for any length of time, it quickly becomes obvious he is young at heart when it comes to his passion for the game of basketball. A prime example of that came this morning when Smeenk launched into a detailed account of yesterday's 51-34 non-league victory over Mt. Vernon Christian.
He quickly singled out senior Amy Mensonides, saying enthusiastically "...she played a whale of a game.
"Amy's only about 5'8" tall, but she's a battler inside the paint for us. She's very tough underneath the basket," Smeenk continued, praising her for scraping a team high 10 rebounds off the glass while more than holding her own against Mt. Vernon's 6'2" center, Trista Van Beckum. It was because of Mensonides' effort inside the lane that the Lady Knights outboarded the Hurricanes by a 29 to 25 margin.
Smeenk, too, noted that Mensonides pumped in a season high 9 points for the Lady Knights while shooting 5-for-7 from the free throw line.
He went on to detail that his Lady Knights are beginning to show marked improvement at the foul line. Through the first seven games of the season, well, let's just say a 50 percent effort from the charity stripe was a cut above the norm. But last night, the Sunnyside Christian girls hit 11-of-16 foul shots.
"We're getting there," Smeenk said.
Offensively from the floor, the Lady Knights had the middle taken away by the 6'2" Van Beckum, who swatted away eight Sunnyside Christian shots yesterday. "She made it very difficult for us to score inside," Smeenk said.
To counter that, Smeenk employed a press at various times throughout the game. His Lady Knights stepped it up defensively, forcing Mt. Vernon into committing 35 turnovers. Emily Hernandez, especially, turned in a stalwart defensive effort, coming away with six steals.
"Emily really harassed their point guard all day," said Smeenk.
The numerous turnovers on the part of the Hurricanes allowed Sunnyside Christian to convert those steals into basket after basket.
"We were creating our points with our defensive efforts," Smeenk said. Hernandez and the equally quick Tori Van Wingerden were the benefactors, each dropping in 10 points, most of the scoring coming on fastbreak opportunities.
Sunnyside Christian was clinging to a 30-23 lead heading into the final quarter of play Tuesday afternoon, but broke the game open down the stretch by outscoring the Hurricanes 21-11 in the final period.
Yesterday's victory, the Lady Knights' third consecutive win, upped their overall record on the year to 4-4. Sunnyside Christian doesn't return to the hardwood until Tuesday, Jan. 4, when it hosts Bickleton for its fourth straight home game.
.Mt. Vernon Christian 7 10 6 11 -34
Sunnyside Christian 10 10 10 21 -51
Mt. Vernon Christian-Tristta Van Beckum 13.
Sunnyside Christian-Ja. Roberts 4, To. Van Wingerden 10, DeGroot 5, Rice 0, Ty. Van Wingerden 7, Jo. Roberts 4, Hernandez 10, den Hoed 2, Mensonides 9.