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Knights give away opening game at State

SPOKANE - The Sunnyside Christian High School boys basketball team's inability to do the simple things down the stretch in yesterday's opening game against Wilbur-Creston at the State 'B' basketball tournament in Spokane cost the Knights.

The Knights folded down the stretch to lose to Wilbur-Creston, 61-55.

The loss dropped the Knights into a 10:30 a.m. consolation game against Chief Leschi today (Thursday), which was a 53-51 loser in to Wahkiakum on the opening day of State.

Sunnyside Christian battled impressively in the first half, particularly Derek DeVries, who shared game high scoring honors with 20 points. But the Knights really had no answer for the Wilbur-Creston combination of Patrick Johnson and Joe Snavely in the second half.

DeVries open the game scoring six of the Knights' first eight points. Snavely, though, and a 3-pointer from Gavin Mann helped keep Wilbur-Creston in the first quarter as both teams traded the lead back and forth. Andrew Schutt had a 3-pointer late in the first quarter to give the Knights a 13-12 lead, but Joe Schroeder came off the bench and provided a spark for Wilbur-Creston, scoring the team's last seven points of the first quarter. Wilbur-Creston took a 17-16 lead at the end of the first quarter, as Sunnyside Christian's inability to hit some key shots in the opening period cost the Knights. DeVries had a hot first period with 9 points.

The second quarter saw the Knights failing to take advantage of several miscues by Wilbur-Creston. Sunnyside Christian went through a stretch in the second quarter where it missed five consecutive shots, allowing Wilbur-Creston to take a 21-18 lead.

With a 25-20 lead and its star player, Snavely, on the bench with three fouls, Wilbur-Creston allowed the Knights back in the game. A couple of free throws from DeVries and another bucket put the Knights within one point at 25-24. But, just before intermission, the Knights failed to capitalize on a scoring opportunity, turning the ball over to end up on the short end of a 28-26 score.

The third quarter saw the most action of the game, as both teams exchanged the lead a combined seven times.

The Knights made a few mistakes in the second half, one of which was failing to attack Snavely, who was in foul trouble late in the first half. Sunnyside Christian also failed to get the ball into the hot hands of DeVries, who went nearly the entire third quarter without scoring.

"Wilbur-Creston doubled down on Derek (DeVries) the second half," said SCHS Coach Dean Wagenaar. "We couldn't get him the ball."

The momentum of the game started to shift for the Knights very late in the third period. A lay-in from Snavely gave Wilbur-Creston a 40-39 lead. The Knights had two turnovers in the final minute of the period and took an ill-advised 3-point shot that allowed Wilbur-Creston to start pulling away, leading 44-39 going into the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter started with the Knights being called for an offensive foul. Johnson made the Knights pay, draining a 3-pointer to give Wilbur-Creston a 47-39 lead. Johnson and Sunnyside Christian's Chad Den Boer ended up trading 3-point baskets, but Johnson's second 3-pointer of the period prevailed, giving Wilbur-Creston a 52-45 lead with under five minutes to play. The Knights didn't help their cause any, as Johnson hit another 3-pointer after a Sunnyside Christian turnover to expand Wilbur-Creston's lead to 55-45.

"Give that Johnson kid credit," said Wagenaar. "He hit three treys in the fourth quarter. In fact, 11 of his 16 points came in that last quarter. He didn't score any points in the first half."

With 2:25 left in the fourth quarter, the Knights cut the deficit to 57-51 off a lay-in from Den Boer. Sunnyside Christian, though, couldn't get much closer, as the Knights missed several shots. Snavely finally fouled out with under a minute to go in the fourth quarter, which allowed DeVries to finally get back into the scoring column. DeVries scored his 19th and 20th points of the game on two foul shots that sent Snavely to the bench for the remainder of the contest.

The scoring for the Knights ended with Andrew Schutt getting an offensive putback on a missed 3-pointer by DeVries to pull the Knights within 59-55 with 24.7 seconds to go.

The Knights then made two crucial mistakes in the waning seconds. A Sunnyside Christian player was called for standing on the out of bounds line while trying to set up an offensive play. Then with 14.2 seconds left, the game ended for Sunnyside Christian when a player was called for a traveling violation. Wilbur-Creston got a final bucket to account for the final 61-55 score.

"We only had three turnovers in the first half," Wagenaar said. "But we committed six turnovers in the fourth quarter, and most of them were unforced.

"It's a game we could have easily won," said Wagenaar. "They're a good team, but if we play them 10 times, we win five of them."

Snavely, Mann and Johnson ended up with 18, 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the winners.

DeVries and Den Boer each canned 20 points for Sunnyside Christian. DeVries also grabbed six rebounds in the losing effort. Schutt enjoyed an overall good performance, dropping in 9 points to go along with his five boards, seven assists and three steals. Jordan Haak added an 11-rebound, 6-point effort for the Knights.

In looking at the Knights' 10:30 a.m. opponent today (Thursday), Wagenaar said Chief Leschi has fairly athletic players and relies on two kids to do the bulk of the scoring.

"Now we have to go out and play hard and see what happens," Wagenaar said.

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