WEST VALLEY - Don't let Tuesday evening's 72-52 score fool you. It was anything but a blowout. Just ask the West Valley Rams, who almost visibly let out a collective sigh of relief when the final buzzer sounded.
Behind the 33 combined points of Drew Cavanaugh and Dan Girard, the Rams fended off a hard fought challenge from the Sunnyside High School boys basketball team. The first round Regional tournament victory advances West Valley to a match-up against the Cheney Blackhawks. For Sunnyside, its season is over.
Grizzly Coach Steve Urrutia didn't want the season to end last night, but said he couldn't be more proud of the way his club gave its all Tuesday night.
"The score says nothing," Urrutia said of the 72-52 loss. "Effort-wise, we couldn't have gotten more out of the kids. A lot was said by the kind of effort that was put out last night.
"We battled!" he added.
The telling difference was in the way the two clubs shot the ball last night. West Valley sank an amazing 64 percent of its shots from the field, compared to just a 34 percent success rate by the Grizzlies.
"That was the only downside," said Urrutia. "It wasn't one of our better shooting nights."
Neither club could gain any real advantage in the opening period. But West Valley started to show its strength with an 18-8 surge in the second quarter, thanks mostly to two 3-pointers off the fingertips of Eric Borton, who had three treys in all last night.
Down 31-19 at intermission, playing on the Rams' home court, it might have been easy for the Grizzlies to dial in the loss. That didn't prove to be the case. Instead, Sunnyside scraped its way back into the game by exploding for 20 third period points. Tony Cantu, who turned in a season best 13 points last night, fired in two 3-pointers in the quarter to key the burst. Cody Heckert and Reid Schilperoort combined for 9 points in the period, as well.
The Grizzlies continued their onslaught into the fourth quarter, getting as close as six points.
The come-from-behind effort in the late stages of the game was fueled by a seldom used full court man-to-man pressure defense.
"We don't use it very often," said Urrutia. "But time was running out and we had to do something to try to close the gap."
The tight defensive coverage resulted in Sunnyside getting whistled for numerous fouls. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, West Valley hit the bulk of their free throws, going 9-for-14 from the charity stripe in the final period.
"We ended up calling off the full court press," said Urrutia. "West Valley wasn't missing much from the foul line, so enough was enough."
But that isn't to say the Rams weren't getting aggravated from the pressure Sunnyside applied. West Valley's frustration with being unable to sock the game away came to the forefront when two of the Rams were whistled for technical fouls in the late going.
In the end, it was the offensive efforts of Cavanaugh and Girard that made the difference. Cavanaugh pumped in a game high 19 points, which included going 3-for-5 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, and Girard added 14. Girard, too, had a game high eight rebounds, which gave the Rams a slight 25 to 20 advantage on the boards.
Sunnyside had three players score in double figures-Schilperoort with a team high 14 points, Cantu with 13 and 6'6" Jake Thomas with 11 points. Heckert added a 7-point effort for the Grizzlies, who finished the season with a 9-14 overall mark, 4-8 in Mid-Valley League play.
In looking ahead, Urrutia said he believes the foundation has been laid for the Grizzlies to be successful.
"I feel we've established some things, the way we want our kids to play. We didn't really see it until the end of the season, but it's there now," he said.
Of this year's varsity, seven are seniors and won't be returning. The seven were the nucleus of the team.
"I think these kids will be able to look back and say they had a hand in turning things around," Urrutia said.
The immediate future of Grizzly hoops apparently lies with this year's freshman class. One freshman, Jesse Montelongo, was brought up to the varsity late in the season, and three other freshmen played on this year's junior varsity squad. Sunnyside's all-freshman team, which went 12-0 in league play this year and was 17-3 overall, also has some fine candidates for the 2005-06 varsity.
"We've got some good freshmen this year," said Urrutia. "It's the core group of kids I, hopefully, will be working with next season."
Sunnyside 11 8 20 13 -52
West Valley 13 18 18 23 -72
2-pt. FG-Sunnyside 13/30, West Valley 26/36. 3-pt. FG-Sunnyside 3/17 (Cantu 2, Heckert 1), West Valley 3/9 (Borton 3). FT-Sunnyside 17/21, West Valley 11/22. Rbd.-Sunnyside 20 (Thomas 7, R. Schilperoort 5), West Valley 25 (Girard 8). TO-Sunnyside 12, West Valley 10.
Sunnyside-Cantu 13, Van de Graaf 0, Simmons 2, Heckert 7, L. Schilperoort 0, Crimp 3, R. Schilperoort 14, Thomas 11, Montelongo 0, Duran 2.
West Valley-Walkenhauer 4, Peterson 2, Sears 2, Swift 9, Jennings 1, Borton 9, Cavanaugh 19, Juarez 8, Girard 14, Wager 4.