SPOKANE - Last night's 69-51 defeat suffered by the Sunnyside Christian High School girls basketball team wasn't so much a case of the Lady Knights playing poorly. Rather, Almira-Coulee-Hartline Coach Scott Isaak's Warriors showed why pollsters have them ranked as the No. 2 Class 'B' team in the state.
Coach Al Smeenk's Lady Knights had the misfortune of drawing No. 2 ranked Almira-Coulee-Hartline as their opponent in the opening round of the Class 'B' State Tournament. As expected, the Warriors (24-1) ran rampant over unheralded and unranked Sunnyside Christian (17-8).
"We couldn't beat them," said Smeenk. "They're a fine team. We were just out-matched.
"They're on a 21-game win streak, and now we know why. They have so many weapons. In the first half, they shot 56 percent from the field against us," Smeenk added.
The Warriors' leading scorer this season, 5'11" senior Sheena Henderson with an 18-point per game average, proved to be everything as advertised. Henderson, working the baseline and taking dishes from her teammates in the low post, ended up canning 14 points. What Sunnyside Christian might not have been expecting, though, was the offensive prowess shown by three of Henderson's teammates. Especially, the play of Bailee Clark, who ripped the net for a game high 19 points on 7-of-17 field goal shooting. Two of Clark's buckets came from beyond the 3-point arc. The Warriors also got double-digit scoring performances from Michelle Falkum and freshman Kami Clark with 14 and 11 points, respectively.
With a 29-10 advantage forged through the first quarter and the opening minute of the second period, the Warriors may have thought they weren't going to be challenged. Not so!
Sunnyside Christian came alive after the Clark sisters hit the first two buckets of the second quarter, piecing together a 6-1 run to draw within 30-16. Sophomore Emma Hernandez, standing only 5'0" tall, initiated the spark by driving to the hoop and laying in a right-handed, off-balance scoop shot. Following a defensive stop, teammate Carly DeGroot, subbing in off the bench, drove the lane, pulled up and nailed a jumper. After the younger Clark hit one of two free throws for the Warriors, Hernandez went back to work and muscled inside against the taller timber, getting a reverse lay-in to fall.
Obviously buoyed by the mini-run, the Lady Knights went tit-for-tat with Almira-Coulee-Hartline over the course of the next three minutes, exchanging baskets with their opponents. Senior Hilary Hughes scored twice for the Lady Knights during that exchange, and freshman Tori Van Wingerden put in her lone bucket of the game during that stretch, as well. The Warriors bucked up down the first half stretch, though, closing out the final two minutes of action with a 7-3 run to take a 44-25 lead into the lockerroom at intermission.
But, Sunnyside Christian wasn't about to throw in the towel. The Lady Knights opened the second half with back-to-back 2-point tallies from Hughes and Hernandez. After yet another defensive stop, Hughes was fouled and she sank both free throws to give Sunnyside Christian the first six points of the second half. All of a sudden, the Lady Knights found themselves only trailing by a 44-31 count.
Almira-Coulee-Hartline and the Lady Knights played nearly evenly throughout the remainder of the third quarter, ending with the Warriors up 55-41.
Any hopes for an upset victory went by the wayside, though, when Almira-Coulee-Hartline took off on a 7-2 run to open the final period of play. Sunnyside Christian outscored the Warriors 8-7 down the stretch, with Hernandez going 6-for-6 from the charity stripe during that stint, but it was too little, too late.
"Our girls didn't roll over and quit," said Smeenk, noting that his club outscored the Warriors by a single point in the second half, describing his girls' third and fourth quarter efforts as "...a moral victory."
Hernandez and Hughes each came through with 12 points for the Lady Knights. Hughes sank 5-of-6 shots from the field. Senior Tami Lambrecht also reached double figures in the scoring column, hitting 3-of-6 shots from 3-point land enroute to scoring 11 points. The Lady Knights' leading scorer this season, junior Tyssyna Van Wingerden, settled for 8 points after sitting out much of the first half because of foul trouble. DeGroot, in a reserve role, scored all 6 of her points for Sunnyside Christian in the opening half.
Yesterday's loss put the Lady Knights into a 12:30 p.m. game at State today (Thursday) against Snohomish County Christian. The Snohomish club features a 6'4" center whom Smeenk said was going to be tough to stop.
"We'll try to pressure their guards so they can't lob passes into that big girl," Smeenk said.
Sunnyside Christian 10 15 16 10 -51
Almira-Coulee-Hartline 25 19 11 14 -69
2-pt. FG-SCHS 17/29, ACH 20/42. 3-pt. FG-SCHS 3/14, ACH 6/17. FT-SCHS 8/10, ACH 11/14. Rbds.-SCHS 19, ACH 38. TO-SCHS 19, ACH 19.
Sunnyside Christian-Lambrecht 11, Hughes 12, DeGroot 6, Rice 0, Ty. Van Wingerden 8, Jones 0, Jo. Roberts 0, Hernandez 12, To. Van Wingerden 2, Mensonides 0, Ja. Roberts 0.
Almira-Coulee-Hartline-K. Clark 11, B. Clark 19, Falkum 14, Henderson 14, Gwenn 8, A. Edwards 0, D. Edwards 1, Winfree 0, Butler 2.