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Knights crush Vikings as they battle to reach playoffs

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Chad Den Boer flies by a Mabton player towards the hoop as teammates Jordan Haak (#33) and Josh Buescher look on.

Where have you been all season? That was probably the question fans of the Sunnyside Christian High School boys basketball team were asking last night of their Knights. The SCHS boys dished out a powerful performance that proved they aren't about to ride off quietly into the night.

Last night's much anticipated rematch between the Mabton High School boys basketball team and Sunnyside Christian didn't live up to the original pairing, as the Knights blew out the Vikings 66-35.

"I am very excited for the kids," said Sunnyside Christian Coach Dean Wagenaar. "We have really, really improved our play in the last three weeks. The kids worked hard last night and they were rewarded for their effort."

Last night's win was the seventh consecutive victory for Sunnyside Christian.

And, one could assume that the Knights were giving notice to the rest of the league, after a miserable start to the season, that they will be a force come postseason time.

The lesson the highly touted Vikings can learn from last night is they better come ready to play every night of the week.

But the Knights also had a message for LaSalle head coach Larry Clark and his team. The Lightning better bring their 'A' game Friday night if they want to reach the postseason.

The win by Sunnyside Christian last night was crucial as the Knights are vying to grab the third and final playoff spot in the Greater Columbia 'B' League's northern division. The victory means the Knights won't have to necessarily beat LaSalle Friday night at home to qualify for the postseason. The victory also put the LaSalle's back against the wall as the Lightning have to beat Sunnyside Christian on its homecourt Friday night to force a playoff game Saturday at 6 p.m. in Mabton. If LaSalle wins Friday night, both teams would be tied for third with 8-5 league records. Even though LaSalle would have swept the head-to-head pairings during the season, the Greater Columbia 'B' League has one-game playoffs to decide final berths to the postseason.

Last night's game wasn't even close, as the Knights came storming out of the gates, blasting Mabton 18-2 in the first quarter. Sunnyside Christian led 35-8 at the half.

Mabton just didn't look into the game, as the Viking starters struggled to keep up with Sunnyside Christian.

Andrew Schutt and Derek DeVries combined to annihilate the Vikings in the first quarter. The two paired to score 12 of the Knights' 18 first quarter points.

Mabton didn't score until there was a 1:28 left in the first quarter.

The Knights basically ran an aggressive 2-3 zone, which Wagenaar said means that if any of his players are standing around, they will be sitting on the bench. Wagenaar said the idea was to keep the Vikings on the perimeter.

The second quarter didn't get any better for the Vikings. Mabton didn't score its second bucket until there was 4:30 left in the half, when A.J. Valencia took a rebound coast-to-coast for the bucket.

A 3-pointer and a bucket from Chad Den Boer and another basket from Jordan Haak extended the Knights' lead to 35-8 at the end of the second quarter.

The lackluster effort by the Vikings was evident in the stats. Mabton was outrebounded 26-2 in the first half and 39-17 in the second half.

The Vikings played better in the second half, but the Knights still controlled the game. Valencia managed 18 points for Mabton, but collected 11 of those in the second half.

The Vikes made a short run, pulling to within 20 points midway through the third, but the Knights reasserted themselves and took back control of the game.

"The environment was great," said Wagenaar. "I think our energy level was the key to the game. We attacked and went hard at them."

Mabton Coach Brock Ledgerwood admitted his team was basically outplayed by the Knights.

"We seemed like we didn't come ready to play," said Ledgerwood. "They got easy bucket after easy bucket. We weren't playing up to the level we are capable of playing. Hopefully we take something from this. Hopefully they (Mabton players) still know they are a good team."

The Vikings finished the regular season 10-3 in league play and 13-7 overall. Mabton is the second seed out of the north division of the Greater Columbia 'B' League. Mabton opens the postseason at Goldendale next Tuesday in a loser-out District game against Glenwood in the 8:15 p.m. contest.

. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at mkantman@eaglenewspapers.com

1 2 3 4 T

Mabton 2 6 13 14 35

SCHS 18 17 14 17 66

Scoring: SCHS-Derek DeVries 18, Andrew Schutt 11, Chad Den Boer 11, Jordan Haak 8, Matt Haak 7, Derek Van de Graaf 6, Josh Buescher 3. Ryan Tade 2.

Mabton-A.J. Valencia 18, Alex Zavala 6, Manuel Palaciso 4, Ricardo Huecias 4, Ryan Harris 2.

Rebounds: SCHS-Josh Buescher 9, Derek Van de Graaf 6.

Mabton-Andy Rodriguez 4.

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