SPOKANE - Yesterday's opening round victory at the State 'B' basketball tournament in Spokane was a complete team effort by the Sunnyside Christian High School girls basketball team. But one can't deny the game Emma Hernandez had for the Lady Knights.
There are games and then there are games and boy did Hernandez have a game.
Hernandez set a new State 'B' free throw scoring record, breaking a 22-year-old mark set by Tammy Tibbles of Creston in 1983.
Late in yesterday's opening round 63-45 victory over Toutle Lake, Hernandez made her 17th free throw, surpassing the mark set by Tittles.
Hernandez finished the game with 37 points, breaking a Sunnyside Christian High School record set by Lenore Wierenga and Sylvia Wolters (Newhouse).
"We played well," said Sunnyside Christian Coach Al Smeenk. "I thought we could play with them. (I went into the game thinking) if we play well, we will do OK."
The victory over Toutle Lake, which was ranked in the top 10 in State at the end of the regular season, put the Lady Knights up against Almira-Coulee Hartline, the team that handed Sunnyside Christian its only loss last year at the State tournament.
The Lady Knights looked once again to have their backs against the wall, entering State fresh off two upset victories at the Regional tournament in Ellensburg.
But the first quarter in yesterday's contest with Toutle Lake would be the only thing the Lady Knights would have to worry about.
Hernandez scored 7 of her game-high 37 points in the first quarter. Teammate Tyssyna Van Wingerden added 5 points, including a 3-pointer. Jordi Roberts and Carly DeGroot had the other two buckets in the quarter.
The Lady Knights were up at one point in the first quarter 16-12 before allowing the Lady Ducks back into the game.
Sunnyside Christian was solid from the field in the first quarter, hitting 7-of-14 shots from the field. Toutle Lake hit 7-of-18 shots from the field.
The defense of the Lady Knights took over for the rest of the game. Sunnyside Christian went on a 14-6 run in the second quarter.
Hernandez had 9 points in the second quarter, including a 3-pointer right before the end of the half. Van Wingerden, who was still feeling ill after fainting before last week's Regional playoff games, added 5 points.
Sunnyside Christian dominated the boards in the second quarter, grabbing 12 of its 33 defensive rebounds for the game in the quarter.
Sunnyside Christian outrebounded the Lady Ducks 49 to 35.
In the second quarter, the Lady Knights hit 3-of-5 free throws and were 6-for-13 from the field. The Lady Ducks were a dismal 17 percent from the field, hitting 3-of-17 shots.
The downfall for Toutle Lake would come in the third quarter. The Lady Ducks didn't score for the first half of the third quarter, as the Lady Knights were too much on defense. Sunnyside Christian went on a 13-9 run to finish out the third quarter.
Hernandez was on a tear in the third quarter for the Lady Knights, scoring 10 points.
Sunnyside Christian's defense held the Lady Ducks to just 4-of-16 shooting from the field in the third quarter. The Lady Knights were only 2-of-13 from the field, but hit 8-of-10 free throws.
With a comfortable lead, the Lady Knights lost a bit of focus down the stretch in the game, resulting in the close period, which Sunnyside Christian won 17-14.
Hernandez's historic free throw game in the last 15 seconds of the game after she had missed her first shot.
Smeenk said the key for the game was the 2-3 zone defense the Lady Knights ran.
"We knew they are 3-point shooters," said Smeenk.
Smeenk said Toutle Lake was simply frustrated that nothing could get past the Lady Knights' defense.
"We played good defense," said Smeenk.
One of the 3-point threats for Toutle Lake was Lindsey Scheffler, who had 18 points on the night, but she was only 2-for-8 from 3-point range.
The Lady Ducks shot a poor 5-of-24 from 3-point range.
"We figured we had to stop those 3s," said Smeenk.
Smeenk said what was another nice part of the game was that Toutle Lake matched up well size-wise with the Lady Knights.
Smeenk did say he was disappointed with the way his team finished off the game. Smeenk said his team didn't play well at the end, but he did say that by then Toutle Lake looked very uncomfortable on the floor.
In the third quarter, Smeenk said the key for Sunnyside Christian was the Lady Knights' good defense.
"We rotated well," said Smeenk.
As far as Hernandez goes, Smeenk said he wasn't surprised at the game she played.
"She can penetrate. She is quick," said Smeenk. "She is a spark plug."
Smeenk didn't know until the last couple of minutes of the game that Hernandez was close to breaking the State free throw record. Much to the surprise of Hernandez, Smeenk left his 5'5" junior standout in the game.
"I hollered at her to go to the hoop and we will talk later," said Smeenk.
Hernandez shot 9-of-21 from the field, 2-of-6 from 3-point range and 17-of-20 from the free throw line against Toutle Lake.
"I thought I did pretty good," said Hernandez.
Hernandez said what got her going in yesterday's game was making her first seven shots.
"That got my blood going," said Hernandez.
A big difference for Hernandez this year at State was she felt a bit at home on floor of the Spokane Arena.
"I felt more comfortable," said Hernandez. "I felt less nervous."
Hernandez said that another key in the game was that Toutle Lake likes playing man-to-man defense, which she enjoys go up against. Hernandez, though, said she had no idea that she would have this type of game. Hernandez said she was also surprised at how much her team was able to be involved in the game.
"I have really been trying to be a team leader," said Hernandez, who added she was glad that her team won.
Hernandez said she had no clue about how many points or how close she was to breaking the State 'B' girls free throw record.
"I was just playing," said Hernandez.
Hernandez said she was a bit in awe of the excitement of the crowd, especially after she had missed the first of two free throws before making her historic shot.
"I am glad to have made that second free throw," said Hernandez.
Hernandez said she is also happy to have broken the school scoring record of such accomplished players.
Hernandez said she is glad to have her name added to the State 'B' record books.
"It feels really good," said Hernandez.
Hernandez received some nice support from her teammates yesterday. Van Wingerden had a game-high 11 rebounds to go along with her 10 points, her third consecutive double-double of the week. Amy Mensonides had eight rebounds and 5 points.
Smeenk said the Lady Knights will have their work cut out for them today at 5:30 p.m. against Almira-Coulee Hartline in the quarterfinals. He said Almira-Coulee Hartline has four shooters that can drain the 3-ball and effective post players.
"They are great athletes," said Smeenk of Almira-Coulee Hartline, which also won the State 'B' volleyball crown. "They are good. We will give it everything we got."
1 2 3 4 T
SCHS 16 16 13 17 62
Toutle Lake 16 6 9 14 45
Scoring: SCHS-Emma Hernandez 37, Tyssyna Van Wingerden 10, Carly DeGroot 7, Amy Mensonides 5, Jordi Roberts 2, Tori Van Wingerden 1.
Toutle Lake-Lindsey Scheffler 18, Kayla Vickaryous 14.
Rebounds: Tyssyna Van Wingerden 11, Amy Mensonides 8, Carly DeGroot 5, Emma Hernandez 4.
Steals: Emma Hernandez 4.