ELLENSBURG - Too much Riley Sivak spelled defeat for the Sunnyside High School boys basketball team last night in its District tournament opener against Ellensburg.
In years past, the opening round loss at District would have meant Sunnyside's season was over. But in a break from tradition, the District tourney format has been changed. For the Grizzlies, that equates to them living on to fight another day.
And that day will be this coming Friday, when the Sunnyside squad travels to Wapato, 54-52 losers to Selah last night. Friday's game will be a loser-out, season ending affair for both clubs. The winner of that match-up will advance to Regionals to face the Mid-Valley League's No. 3 finisher in the District tournament.
Coach Steve Urrutia's Grizzlies have their work cut out for them in Wapato this coming Friday. The Wolfpack were 66-57 winners over Sunnyside in closing out the regular season last Friday. Avenging that loss won't be easy, especially when you consider that Wapato almost always packs it gym with a partisan, hometown crowd. The difference in who comes out on top may rest on whether or not Wapato's leading scorer this season, Marshall Juarez, is fit enough to play all four quarters. Juarez injured his ankle in attempting to block a second half shot in last Friday's game against Sunnyside and had to sit for the remainder of the contest. Juarez apparently wasn't 100 percent last night, as he only scored 4 points against Selah.
The Wolves may not even have to worry about Juarez's health, considering the way Sunnyside shot the ball against Ellensburg last night. The Grizzlies only sank 35 percent of their shots from the field in the 52-41 loss. That included a 0-for-11 effort from behind the 3-point arc.
"In warm-ups you could see our shots weren't really on," said Urrutia. "Then, with Ellensburg's defense, it made it tough to score."
Tuesday's District opener started out as a tit-for-tat affair, with neither club grabbing an advantage. That changed about midway through the second quarter. Knotted at 19-all, Ellensburg clamped down and held the Grizzlies scoreless the final four minutes of the opening half.
"We took some shots we shouldn't have taken," said Urrutia.
The Bulldogs reeled off nine points in the process to take a 28-19 lead into intermission. Sivak was the catalyst for Ellensburg during that run, pouring in 8 of his game high 22 points during that stretch. As well as being the leading scorer last night, Sivak also had a game high 11 rebounds, which helped the 'Dogs to a 22 to 17 advantage on the boards.
Sunnyside's cold spell continued for the first three minutes of the second half, which allowed Ellensburg to push its lead out to double digits. The Grizzlies played catch-up the rest of the way, eventually dropping the 52-41 decision.
Offensively for Sunnyside, the trio of Reid Schilperoort, Jake Thomas and Cody Heckert was about all the Grizzlies had to offer. Between the three of them, they scored all but five of Sunnyside's points.
Urrutia said he elected to not get into a fastbreak, transition type game with Ellensburg, opting instead to have the Grizzlies play a deliberate, halfcourt set offense. By doing so, Sunnyside only put up 37 field goal attempts, although the Grizzlies were sent to the free throw line for 22 shots.
Sunnyside 13 6 9 13 -41
Ellensburg 13 15 11 13 -52
2-pt. FG-Sunnyside 13/26, Ellensburg 13/23. 3-pt. FG-Sunnyside 0/11, Ellensburg 2/8. FT-Sunnyside 15/22, Ellensburg 20/23. Rbd.-Sunnyside 17 (Thomas 5, R. Schilperoort 4, Heckert 3), Ellensburg 22 (Sivak 11). TO-Sunnyside 11, Ellensburg 10.
Sunnyside-Cantu 0, Simmons 3, Heckert 11, L. Schilperoort 0, Crimp 0, R. Schilperoort 13, Thomas 12, Engel 2.
Ellensburg-Gray 4, Affholter 0, Johnson 8, Griffith 8, Faire 0, Rittereiger 2, Sivak 22, Quirk 8, Bender 0, Gordon 0.