An inspiring District tournament semi-final win over LaSalle last Friday and a heartbreaking overtime loss to Riverside Christian in Saturday's District championship game has earned the Sunnyside Christian High School girls basketball team a one-shot opportunity to play for a trip to State.
The SCHS Lady Knights (16-7) will play this coming Saturday at Ellensburg High School at 2 p.m. in a Regional tourney game that will send the winner on to State. The loser of Saturday's game will see their season come to an end. Sunnyside Christian's opponent will be the winner of Friday's Klickitat/Waterville contest.
The Lady Knights defeated Klickitat in late January, 56-30, in the teams' only match-up of the season. Sunnyside Christian hasn't seen Waterville this season, but Lady Knights' Coach Al Smeenk knows that Waterville features a 6'2" post player, and that all of their starters are seniors.
Sunnyside Christian notched its 16th victory of the season this past Friday in the District semi-final contest. The Lady Knights rallied from a 19-9 first quarter deficit to defeat league rival LaSalle, 55-48.
Junior Carly DeGroot, one of three Lady Knights in double figures Friday, sparked the come-from-behind rally. DeGroot tossed in 11 points coming in off-the-bench, with five of those points coming in the second quarter when Sunnyside Christian outscored LaSalle by a 16-8 margin.
With 4:40 remaining in the first half, DeGroot sank a long range 3-pointer to cut LaSalle's lead to 21-19. She followed that up by muscling her way inside for a 2-point bucket, squaring the contest at 21-all. Senior Hilary Hughes, who led all scorers in the game with 17 points, proceeded to power inside on the Lady Knights' next two possessions and dropped in two shots, which gave Sunnyside Christian a 25-21 lead. LaSalle fought back and closed out the first half with a 6-0 run to take a slim 27-25 lead into intermission.
"Carly (DeGroot) came into the game Friday and sparked us," said Smeenk. "She can hit the 3's. She gave us what we needed, both Friday and Saturday."
The Lady Knights established control of Friday's game by piecing together an 18-8 third quarter run to grab the lead back, at 43-35. Sunnyside Christian didn't relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
In addition to Hughes and DeGroot popping in 17 and 11 points, respectively, for Sunnyside Christian, the Lady Knights got a 14-point effort Friday from junior Tyssyna Van Wingerden. Senior Tami Lambrecht chipped in a 7-point performance, with Jordan Roberts and Amy Mensonides adding 4 and 2 points, respectively.
In the losing cause, LaSalle junior Carlie Gosser scored a team high 16 points.
Saturday in the District title game, the Lady Knights again fell behind early, trailing 22-10 heading into the second quarter. But like Friday, Sunnyside Christian rallied, outscoring the Crusaders by a 19-8 margin in the second period to go into the half trailing by a single point.
Sunnyside Christian fought tooth-and-nail with Riverside Christian, the state's No. 5 ranked 'B' team, the second half. The Lady Knights eventually pulled within one, at 57-56, when with six seconds remaining in regulation Hughes got fouled. The 5'5" senior, displaying nerves of steel, nailed the front end of the 1-and-1 to tie the game at 57-all. Riverside Christian Coach Rick Van Beek called a timeout at that point, presumably to try and freeze Hughes, and the ploy apparently worked as Hughes missed the second free throw. Neither team was able to get off a shot in the final six seconds.
The Lady Knights knocked down the first bucket in overtime, but the Crusaders then heated up behind the pinpoint shooting of Sharelle Wells. The 5'10" Wells, a junior, hit two 3-pointers enroute to canning 9 points in the OT session, leading Riverside to a 16-6 scoring advantage in the extra period.
"Riverside Christian pulled away from us in overtime," said Smeenk, "But it wasn't for a lack of effort on our part.
"Our girls gave 100 percent. They gave everything they had," he said.
Riverside Christian had four players score in double figures in its 73-63 victory. Erin Shively, who was just named the Greater Columbia 'B' League MVP, ended up with a game high 26 points, Wells finished with 19, and Crusader teammates Mary Labbee and Katie Van Beek each added 13 points.
For Sunnyside Christian, Lambrecht scorched the net for a team high 21 points. Van Wingerden, besides scoring 15 points, led the Lady Knights to a three-rebound advantage over Riverside by pulling down 11 boards. DeGroot added a 10-point effort for the Lady Knights, with Hughes inflicting damage by scoring 8 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Also scoring for Sunnyside Christian were Roberts and Emma Hernandez with 6 and 3 points, respectively.
. Bob Story,can be contacted at
(509) 837-4500, or e-mail him