GOLDENDALE - Ticky-tacky calls by the officials got the Sunnyside Christian High School girls basketball team in foul trouble yesterday afternoon. The Lady Knights weathered the early adversity, though, and stormed past the Lyle Cougars 55-34.
Tuesday's victory by Sunnyside Christian in the first round, loser-out District tournament game propels the Lady Knights to a District semi-final contest, scheduled for this coming Friday against LaSalle. Yesterday's win also assures Sunnyside Christian of a spot in the Feb. 27-28 Regional tournament, to be staged in Ellensburg this year.
"It will be the first time in three years we've played at Regionals," said SCHS Coach Al Smeenk. "We're glad to be going."
If the Lady Knights are to find success at Regionals, they'll have to play much smarter than they did yesterday in the first half against Lyle.
"That first half, we got into foul trouble," said Smeenk. He explained that several of his players got whistled early on for reaching in, while deployed in a full court man-to-man defense. It especially hurt when two of the team's stalwarts-Hilary Hughes and Tyssyna Van Wingerden-ended up with a total of five foul calls against them and were forced to the bench for much of the opening half.
With such talent relegated to the bench, Lyle was able to make a game of it early on. At intermission, the Cougars were only down by an 18-10 margin.
"At the break, I didn't have a lot to say to the girls," Smeenk said. "I just told them they had to go play ball."
Sunnyside Christian had all of its starters on the floor after the halftime break, and the difference was telling. The Lady Knights basically socked the game away in the third quarter, outscoring Lyle by an 18-6 count to forge a 36-16 lead. Sunnyside Christian subbed freely in the final period, which accounted for the Cougars only losing by 21 points.
"The second half we started clicking on offense," said Smeenk. "We came out with a lot more desire."
Van Wingerden was the offensive catalyst for the Lady Knights, drilling a game high 19 points. Van Wingerden also led Sunnyside Christian to a 34 to 26 advantage on the boards, scraping down a game high 10 rebounds. Hughes, in limited time on the floor because of the early foul trouble, added a six-rebound, 7-point effort for the Lady Knights. Sunnyside Christian also received noteworthy offensive performances from Tami Lambrecht, Emma Hernandez and Tori Van Wingerden with 10, 9 and 8 points, respectively.
Lyle's Dawn Ullom canned 12 of her team high 16 points in the fourth quarter, after Smeenk had pulled many of his starters in favor of his reserves.
In looking ahead to Friday's District tournament semi-final game against LaSalle, scheduled for 3 p.m. at Sunnyside High School, Smeenk has no doubts this his Lady Knights (15-6) can give the Lightning (14-5) all it can handle.
"We can play with them, we've already proved that," he said.
LaSalle bested Smeenk's club, 48-41, last Friday in the regular season finale, but not before his Lady Knights clawed back from a 23-point deficit to make a game of it. In the two clubs' first match-up of the season, back on Jan. 17, Sunnyside Christian defeated the Lightning by a 44-40 score.
"The key for us Friday is not putting ourselves into a big hole early on," Smeenk said. "And, we have to stay out of foul trouble.
"If the girls come out and play smart, we're going to be OK," he added.
. Bob Story,can be contacted at
(509) 837-4500, or e-mail him