YAKIMA - The Sunnyside Christian High School boys basketball team found out there are some nights when the ball just falls and there are some nights when a team can't buy a bucket. Saturday night was one of those nights when the Knights couldn't buy a bucket.
In a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated, the 11-0 Riverside Christian Crusaders defeated Sunnyside Christian 45-30, pulling away late in the game. Saturday's win marks the first time the Crusaders have defeated the Knights in varsity play.
"It was a close game," said Sunnyside Christian Coach Dean Wagenaar. "It was an emotional game."
The Knights went toe-to-toe with the Crusaders in the first half, as the two teams battled to a 23-all tie. The problems for Sunnyside Christian, though, started happening in the last three minutes of the second quarter. With a six-point lead, the Knights couldn't convert on four straight open shot attempts, allowing the Crusaders to tie the score just before the end of the half.
The first half was notable for Sunnyside Christian because the Knights fell behind early. The Crusaders built a 14-6 lead behind the efforts of George Graham, who had two 3-pointers in the first quarter. Wagenaar said Graham surprised him with his shooting ability because it is something he hasn't shown in past games. The Knights countered with a 13-0 run to pull ahead of the Crusaders 19-14. During the 13-0 run, Sunnyside Christian's Jordan Haak converted three steals into buckets while teammate Andrew Schutt drained a 3-pointer and added another hoop. Their efforts weren't enough for Sunnyside Christian, as the Crusaders outscored the Knights 9-4 to finish out the first half.
Wagenaar said he could tell the momentum switched for his team after missing the four open buckets late in the second quarter. Wagenaar felt if his team could have converted those shots it would have quieted the packed house at Riverside Christian and kept the momentum in favor of the Knights.
The drought at the hoop continued for the Knights in the second half, as the Crusaders opened with a 5-0 run.
"They were pretty patient," said Wagenaar of Riverside Christian's offensive efforts. "They put a lot of defensive pressure on us."
Despite hardly being able to buy a bucket in the third quarter, being outscored 11-3 in the period by the Crusaders, the Knights found themselves only down 34-30 with about five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
"We ran four or five plays and had great looks," said Wagenaar. "We didn't hit the shots, including a couple of open 3-pointers."
The Crusaders converted the missed shots by the Knights late in the game and then went into a stall offense, forcing the Knights to be aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. The Crusaders made a few free throws late in the fourth to account for the final score.
Wagenaar said Saturday's game was a great defensive battle. The Crusaders were ineffective with their press early on, so Riverside Christian switched to a very effective man-to-man defense. The Knights found success with a match-up zone defense, which kept the Crusaders on the perimeter.
Chad Den Boer and Haak led the Knights in scoring with 8 points apiece.
The Crusaders were led by the talented duo of Joseph Hampton, 13 points, and Josh Horsley, 12.
The Knights (0-2, 3-6) face a couple of crucial games this coming weekend. Friday night, Sunnyside Christian plays host to Trout Lake, the top team out of the southern division of the Greater Columbia 'B' League. On Saturday, Sunnyside Christian travels to LaSalle in Yakima for a crucial road game. Wagenaar said the Knights have struggled on the road at LaSalle in past games.
"We have to take care of business now (to get one of the three playoff spots)," said Wagenaar.
. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at email@example.com
1 2 3 4 T
SCHS 10 13 3 4 30
Riverside 14 9 11 11 45
Scoring: SCHS - Chad Den Boer 8, Jordan Haak 8, Andrew Schutt 7, Derek DeVries 7.
Riverside - Joseph Hampton 13, Josh Horsley 12.
Rebounds: Jordan Haak 4, Derek DeVries 3.
Assists: Jordan Haak 3.