Open Mike

The week is the Knights for the taking

Usually sports columns run on the weekends, but with the State 'B' basketball tournament on the horizon this week, I thought we would change things up a bit.

Both the Sunnyside Christian High School boys and girls basketball teams have qualified for the State 'B' basketball tournament at the Spokane Arena starting this Wednesday.

The Lady Knights drew the top half of the bracket, opening with Toutle Lake (22-2) at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.

Sunnyside Christian boys drew the bottom half of the bracket on opening day at the coveted 9 p.m. slot against Tacoma Baptist (17-10).

The road for both teams to State was very different. I guess I will start my observations with the ladies.

I am not going to put anything past the Lady Knights. I thought Sunnyside Christian was done this past weekend at Ellensburg High School. I never thought in my wildest dreams that the Lady Knights would win both of the back-to-back, loser-out Regional playoff games.

The Sunnyside Christian girls had a miserable start to their season, losing their first three games.

But I have learned in my five plus years here to never discount Sunnyside Christian Coach Al Smeenk. What I've also learned from this past weekend was to never discount the Sunnyside Christian High School girls basketball team.

An elated Smeenk had nothing but praise for his players this past Monday. Smeenk said it was an all-around team effort that led the Lady Knights back to State, where they are looking to do better than the fifth place finish they had last season.

The Lady Knights half of the bracket at State includes such teams as King's West, Almira-Coulee Hartline, LaSalle, DeSales, Curlew and Evergreen Lutheran.

This past weekend is a prime example of what can be done when a team comes together and each member of that team understands their role. The foundation of any good squad is teamwork. After this past weekend's performance, the Lady Knights are now what I call a good team. Now it is up to them to go prove it to everyone else.

This year's Sunnyside Christian High School boys basketball team reminds me a lot of the group that won the State title in 2002. Don't get me wrong, that was a special group of young men, but this year's group has many of the same characteristics.

The 2002 group, which featured young men like Kenton Barry, Daryl Haak, Joel Hughes and Lance Den Boer, were destined to win the State crown that year. In nine years of covering high school sports, I have never seen a better, more cohesive group of young men take to the basketball court. That group lived out the destiny they were meant to fulfill.

But this year's version of the Knights is also very much a team of destiny. The only question is where does their destiny lie.

The strong point to this year's team is that Sunnyside Christian has so many weapons. Tell me, if you wouldn't want Jordan Haak going against any player in the area or have anyone try to match the dead on long ball of Chad Den Boer or have somebody try to match Derek Van de Graaf's showing on the boards?

The best thing that happened to this year's Knights was getting batted around in the preseason jamboree at Sunnyside High School, where the Knights learned a lesson in humility. They got a taste of it again a couple of games later against Riverside Christian, which obviously they didn't care for as Sunnyside Christian went on to win its next 18 games.

The marquee match-up for the Knights, if all things go according to plan on Wednesday, should come Thursday evening at 9 p.m. against the defending State 'B' champions, Republic. Republic was a dominating team at State last year. They go into State having not lost one player off last season's championship squad.

We can all make our comparisons of this year's team to past teams at Sunnyside Christian High School. But for this year's group, the time is now for you to go out and write your own destiny.


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