SPOKANE - For a team that wasn't even supposed to make it out of the Regional tournament, the Sunnyside Christian High School girls basketball team didn't make too bad of a showing for itself at the State 'B' basketball tournament.
The Lady Knights opened State with a win against Toutle Lake. But after a competitive quarterfinal loss to Almira-Coulee Hartline, the SCHS girls left the Spokane Arena without a trophy after being bounced from the State tournament by league rival LaSalle this past Friday afternoon.
The Lady Lightning used a big fourth quarter push to get by Sunnyside Christian 46-36.
Friday's game against LaSalle marked the fourth time this season the two teams have met.
Sunnyside Christian Coach Al Smeenk said it is pretty difficult to beat a quality team the caliber of LaSalle, whose leading scorer is a freshman, more than once.
The Lady Knights looked to use much of the same game plan they had when beating LaSalle in the last game of the regular season, which was to deny the outside shooting of the Lighting.
Smeenk's zone defense worked for a while, but the Lady Knights had no answer for the post play of Cristal German. Smeenk said German was a bit upset following her 2-for-17 shooting night against Curlew on Thursday evening.
"The night before she wasn't satisfied with the way she played," said Smeenk.
With her team down 28-27 going into the fourth quarter, the Lightning senior went to work inside.
German scored 9 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter, dominating the post for LaSalle.
"We couldn't deny her," said Smeenk. "One of our biggest mistakes was we allowed Cristal to catch the ball in the paint. Once she got it, she went to the hoop."
LaSalle, which ended up with the fourth place trophy at State, wasn't too impressive anywhere else but during the fourth quarter. The Lightning were only 19-of-51 from the field and 2-for-12 from 3-point range. LaSalle hit just 6-of-11 free throws against Sunnyside Christian.
Sunnyside Christian's undoing was putting up just 29 shots from the field, of which only nine of them fell through the net. The Lady Knights were, however, solid at the free throw line, hitting 17-of-22 shots.
"We had our chances," said Smeenk.
Where the Lightning excelled was on the offensive glass. Sunnyside Christian outrebounded LaSalle 31 to 29 for the game, but the Lightning did a better job on the offensive glass. LaSalle outscored Sunnyside Christian 12 to 2 on second chance points.
The difference, said Smeenk, was that his team simply had a hard time handling the pressure of LaSalle in the fourth quarter. He said the Lightning went to a trap defense, which forced his team to make several mistakes. Sunnyside Christian ended up with 21 turnovers in the game.
"The got us to make a couple of mistakes," said Smeenk. "They have some fine players. "You can't make mistakes against a good team."
Smeenk's Lady Knights finished the season with an 18-10 record, which included winning back-to-back, loser-out games at Regionals to make it to State.
Sunnyside Christian's two losses at State came to teams that placed high in the trophy rounds. Almira-Coulee Hartline finished second at State and LaSalle ended up fourth.
"Had you told me a month ago we were going to play in Spokane I would have said no way," said Smeenk. "I believe we are one of the top 10 teams in the state. We will work hard during the off-season. The dedicated ones will show up and we will see if we can make it back to Spokane."
1 2 3 4 T
LaSalle 10 8 9 19 46
SCHS 6 12 10 8 36
Scoring: SCHS-Tyssyna Van Wingerden 16, Tori Van Wingerden 8, Carly DeGroot 5, Emma Hernandez 4, Jordi Roberts 3.
LaSalle-Cristal German 12, Molly McGree 12.
Rebounds: Carly DeGroot 5, Tyssyna Van Wingerden 5.
Assists: Tori Van Wingerden 5.
Steals: Tori Van Wingerden 3.