Singling out one player who keyed Sunnyside's 77-63 victory over visiting Connell is tough to do, considering the great team effort the Grizzlies put forth last Saturday night. But if you had to choose one, that honor would go to senior Derrick Simmons.
"It's the best game I've seen him play since he's been around me," said third year Sunnyside Coach Steve Urrutia.
Besides pouring in a team high 19 points for the Grizzlies, the 6'0" Simmons scraped seven boards off the glass, came away with seven steals and dished five assists.
One of the big moments of the game for the Grizzlies came late in the first quarter, when Simmons knocked down his second 3-pointer of the period and was fouled on the shot. He hit the ensuing free throw to cap the 4-point play, which upped Sunnyside's lead from just a nine-point spread to 22-9.
Saturday's win over the Eagles snapped a four-game losing streak for the Sunnyside boys basketball team. The victory couldn't have been needed more, as the Grizzlies (0-1, 2-5) are in the midst of a major overhaul, often described as "a work in progress" by Urrutia. Sunnyside has switched its game plan to a fast paced offensive attack, designed to create confusion with a full-court 1-2-2 trap that relies on the Grizzlies putting up more shots than their opponents, most of them coming from behind the 3-point arc.
Out-shoot Connell, the Grizzlies did. All told, Sunnyside fired up 85 shots from the field, 53 of them from beyond the 3-point arc. The Eagles were held to just 56 field goal attempts.
Sunnyside's long range bombs found their mark 25 percent of the time Saturday, as the Grizzlies made 13-of-53. The top 3-point shooters for Sunnyside were junior James Baysinger, who scored all 12 of his points on four 3-pointers, and sophomore Jesse Montelongo, who dropped in three enroute to scoring 16 points.
Urrutia said ideally his club wants to be at 30 percent or better in 3-point attempts, but sees Saturday's performance as a step in the right direction.
"Shot-wise, the goal is to take 25 to 30 more shots than the other team, and we were right there Saturday," Urrutia added.
The one area in which Urrutia said his club didn't reach its goal against Connell was in trips to the free throw line. The Eagles ended up taking 32 foul shots, compared to just 15 attempts by Sunnyside. Luckily for the Grizzlies Saturday, Connell only hit 14 of its 32 charity attempts.
"The foul thing....we're still cringing over on the bench on some of the fouls we're seeing being committed," he said. "We have to eliminate those reach-ins and over-the-back fouls."
Despite the need to still fine-tune its new game plan, Sunnyside looked pretty impressive in running past the Eagles (1-5). The Grizzlies jumped out to a 24-10 first quarter lead, thanks to a combined 16 points from Baysinger and Simmons. Connell fought back to post a 15-13 scoring advantage in the second period, with 6'3" senior guard Tyler Hawkins leading the way with 9 points in the stanza. Hawkins ended up as the leading scorer for the Eagles, finishing with a game high 22 points.
Unlike most of its earlier outings this season, Sunnyside didn't fold its tent after intermission.
"We scored 40 points in the second half," said Urrutia. "That was pretty big for us. Most of our games this season, we haven't been able to sustain much scoring the last two quarters."
The Grizzlies increased their 37-25 halftime lead to a 53-38 margin through the third period. Simmons had five of Sunnyside's 16 third quarter points, with Baysinger, Montelongo and Brandon Coleman adding three apiece. Montelongo and sophomore D.J. Palomarez pumped in 7 and 6 points, respectively, in the fourth quarter to power Sunnyside to a 24-point final period scoring burst.
Sunnyside is scheduled to host the Quincy Jackrabbits, the defending 2A State runners-up, Tuesday evening of this week. The Grizzlies will then be out of action until Jan. 3, when they are scheduled to jump back into Mid-Valley League play at Ellensburg.
Connell 10 15 13 25 -63
Sunnyside 24 13 16 24 -77
FG-Connell 24/56, Sunnyside 27/85. 3-pt. FG-Connell 1/6 (Brett Clyde), Sunnyside 13/53 (Baysinger 4, Montelongo 3, Simmons 2, Palomarez 2, Briones 1, Coleman 1). FT-Connell 14/32, Sunnyside 10/15.
Connell: Clyde 10, Davidson 5, Holdiman 7, Shultz 10, Hadley 6, Hawkins 22, Price 3.
Sunnyside: Jongsma 3, Simmons 19, Espino 2, Briones 5, Baysinger 12, Montelongo 16, Burgueno 3, Bos 4, Coleman 5, Palomarez 8, Engel 0, Cornelius 0.