Now is the time to book your hotel rooms in Spokane because the Sunnyside Christian High School boys basketball team is heading back to the State 'B' tournament at the Spokane Arena, March 2-5.
The Knights earned their nearly annual trip to Spokane by winning the District title this past weekend in the confines of the Sunnyside High School gymnasium.
Sunnyside Christian earned a berth in the District title game with a 64-48 victory over Mabton Friday night. The Knights then defeated Riverside Christian 52-43 to earn the District title.
The District title guarantees the Knights a trip to the State tournament, but Sunnyside Christian will be looking to add some hardware to its display case by winning the Regional title this coming Saturday afternoon at Ellensburg High School. The Knights will take on the winner of the Moses Lake Christian/Pateros game out of the North Central Washington League later this week for the Regional title.
"We played pretty well both nights," said Sunnyside Christian High School boys basketball Coach Dean Wagenaar, who earned his fifth District title this past weekend.
The Knights were able to jump out to an early lead against Mabton Friday night, outscoring the Vikings 19-5 in the opening quarter. Wagenaar said Sunnyside Christian was able to get off to a fast start by mixing up its offensive game. Chad Den Boer opened with a couple of 3-pointers and then Jordan Haak, who had a game-high 24 points, made a couple of baskets.
The Vikings answered back with a 24-17 burst in the second quarter to cut the Knights' lead to seven points at the break. Wagenaar said Mabton's A.J. Valencia, who had 18 points on the night, hit two NBA range 3-pointers in the last 40 seconds of the first half to cut into Sunnyside Christian's lead.
The Knights had some strong success running a 2-3 zone against the Vikings. Derek Van de Graaf and Den Boer were dominating inside with five blocked shots apiece.
"They were pretty patient on offense, but they (had) to be against our zone," said Wagenaar.
The Vikings were never able to get closer then seven points, as the Knights were able to spread the floor and attack the basket.
Wagenaar did have a lot of praise for the play of Mabton's Alex Zavala, who had 21 points, doing a lot of damage inside against the Knights.
"He played pretty well," said Wagenaar of Zavala.
Sunnyside Christian sank 12-of-16 free throws in the fourth quarter against the Vikings.
The Knights won 52-43 in a tough battle Saturday night against Riverside Christian, who had beaten Lyle the previous night.
"I knew that was going to be a tough game," said Wagenaar.
The Crusaders had a tough time against Sunnyside Christian's zone defense until the second quarter. Trailing 13-5 at the end of the first quarter, the Crusaders outscored Sunnyside Christian 20-11 to finish out the first half strong behind the play of Joseph Hampton.
Hampton had two of the Crusaders' three 3-pointers in the second quarter, scoring 11 of his team-high 18 points in the period. Hampton was also 5-for-6 at the free throw line.
"The Hampton kid surprised us," said Wagenaar.
The momentum of the game switched midway through the third with the Knights leading 31-30, Wagenaar switched to a man defense and the Crusaders had a tough time responding. The Knights outscored Riverside Christian 15-7 in the third quarter to pull away with the game.
Van de Graaf was the difference maker for Sunnyside Christian Saturday night, going 5-for-5 from the field. Wagenaar said Van de Graaf played his best game of the year. Van de Graaf had gone 0-for-7 the last time the two teams played with his favorite jump shot. Wagenaar said when Van de Graaf started making the shots this time around it changed what Riverside Christian was doing defensively.
The Knights also held the Pynch brothers in check. The usually high scoring Trevor Pynch was held to just 3 points while his younger brother, Chris, had only 4.
Wagenaar wants to do well in Saturday's Regional title game to go into State on a high note.
Wagenaar said winning the District title is a special feeling, especially after the last two years when the Knights have had to win back-to-back loser out games to qualify for State.
"District championships are so hard to win," said Wagenaar. ""It is something you can't buy. It is something you have to earn."
1 2 3 4 T
Mabton 5 24 9 10 48
SCHS 19 17 12 16 64
Scoring: SCHS-Jordan Haak 24, Chad Den Boer 15, Derek Van de Graaf 8, Matt Haak 8, Andrew Schutt 7, Sean Tudor 2.
Mabton-Alex Zavala 21, A.J. Valencia 18, Ryan Harris 6, Ruben Mejia 3.
Rebounds: Jordan Haak 8, Andrew Schutt 5.
Assists: Andrew Schutt 4.
Blocked shots: Chad Den Boer 5, Derek Van de Graaf 5.
1 2 3 4 T
Riverside 5 20 7 11 43
SCHS 13 11 15 13 52
Scoring: SCHS-Chad Den Boer 16, Derek Van de Graaf 15, Jordan Haak 10, Andrew Schutt 9, Matt Haak 2.
Riverside-Joseph Hampton 18, Garrett Neiffer 16.
Rebounds: Derek Van de Graaf 6.