ELLENSBURG - Last night's opening round 3A Regional girls basketball game between Ellensburg and Sunnyside will be known as the one that got away from the Lady Grizzlies.
If it hadn't been for the third quarter heroics of Ellensburg senior Tiffanie Ulmer, the Lady Grizzlies would be traveling to Eastern Washington University this coming weekend to play Clarkston.
Ulmer pulled the Lady Bulldogs back into the game and helped push Ellensburg by Sunnyside, 38-37.
"We had it all in our hands," said Sunnyside Coach Leo Gomez. "And we let it slip away."
What was notable about last night's game is the way the Lady Grizzlies played after being blown out 59-19 last Friday in Ellensburg in a District tournament game.
Last night, the Lady Grizzlies went tooth and nail with Ellensburg in the first half. Both teams posted 14-point opening halves.
"Nobody was shooting the ball that well," said Gomez.
Gomez said this time around with the Lady Bulldogs he went to a match-up zone defense. Last Friday when Sunnyside and Ellensburg played, Gomez went with man-to-man defense and didn't have the experienced players to match up with Ulmer in the post. Ulmer had 18 points last Friday night.
Ulmer finished with 11 points last night, but scored 7 of those points during a crucial run by the Lady Bulldogs midway through the third quarter. With four minutes to go, Ulmer hit a 3-pointer and then another bucket to put Ellensburg back on top.
"That made the difference," said Gomez.
With six minutes to go in the game, Ellensburg expanded its lead to 9 points, only to watch as Sunnyside stormed back. Towards the end of the game, Ellensburg hit a couple of free throws to open the lead to 3 points. Sunnyside's Bobi Haringa pulled the Lady Grizzlies to within a point after sinking two free throws. Sunnyside had one last chance with three seconds on the clock, but couldn't get a shot to fall.
"They (Sunnyside players) did a great job," said Gomez. "We knew going into the game we had nothing to lose."
Gomez said last night's game was important because it showed his young team they could play with a quality squad such as Ellensburg.
Sunnyside finished its 2003-04 campaign with a league record of 5-9. The Lady Grizzlies went 9-15 overall.
Gomez loses only senior on this year's team, Hilary Van de Graaf.
"Hilary is a class act player," said Gomez. "Having everybody else back next year is going to be fun."