The brand of ball the Sunnyside High School boys basketball team will be playing this season wasn't put on display for local fans last night.
"We weren't able to do what we're going to do this season," said Sunnyside Coach Steve Urrutia, in explaining the version of basketball Sunnyside fans witnessed Tuesday evening in the season opening Grizzly Jamboree.
What fans did see last night was the lack of an inside presence, as none of the Grizzlies who took the court stand taller than 6'1". In fact, the average height of the 14 Grizzlies who played was just a shade under 5'9".
In the two mini-games Sunnyside competed, the end result was a 39-37 loss to Grandview and a 51-51 tie against Sunnyside Christian.
Following the jamboree Urrutia remained elusive on what, exactly, Sunnyside's game plan will be this season. About the only thing he'd give up is that for the Grizzlies to be effective this season, he needs a full 12-man squad at his disposal.
He didn't have that luxury last night, as the jamboree format called for a 'B' team to play the first two, five-minute quarters and an 'A' team to take the floor for the final two, five-minute periods. Sunnyside had just seven players on each of its squads.
A best guess scenario is that Urrutia and his staff will employ a platooning type system of basketball, where three to five players will exit the bench at the same time and enter the game, spelling the squad out on the floor.
In assessing the play of the Grizzlies last night, fans saw a rag-tag, school yard brand of ball....which, while it may not have looked pretty, was somewhat effective, despite too many fouls committed by Sunnyside and, in some cases, some pretty ugly shots taken by the Grizzlies.
"We did have a lot of fouls called against us," said Urrutia. "We weren't making good decisions, there was a lot of reaching in. That kind of aggressiveness wasn't by design," he said.
Against perennial powerhouse Grandview, Sunnyside rallied in the final two and a half minutes to cut a nine-point deficit to the final score of 39-37. Diego Burgueno, one of eight sophomores on the floor for Sunnyside last night, started the late game rally by swiping the ball from a Grandview player. He quickly fed it to senior Derrick Simmons, who drove the lane and scored to cut the Greyhounds' lead to 37-30.
Following a defensive stop, the Sunnyside faithful came alive on the Grizzlies' next possession, erupting from their seats when 5'6" sophomore D.J. Palomarez knocked down his only bucket of the night. It may have been his only score, but it was a big one, a 3-pointer from the right wing that cut Grandview's lead to 37-33.
Perhaps feeding off the crowd's excitement, the Grizzlies came alive with a swarming defense, which resulted in back-to-back stops, as well as back-to-back buckets...both off the hands of 6'0" junior Ryan Engel. The first score by Engel was an eight-foot, turn-around jumper in the lane. His second basket, which tied the game at 37-all, came on an offensive putback.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, it would be their last score of the game. Grandview couldn't get much of anything going in the final minute and half either, with the exception of a Brandon Artz bucket that came on an inbounds pass from under the Greyhound basket. Grandview went into a stall the final 32 seconds of the game to preserve its 39-37 win.
Scoring-wise, Engel topped all Grizzly 'A' players against Grandview with 6 points. In the first half, 'B' squad member Jesse Montelongo had the hot hand for Sunnyside, scorching the net for 8 points enroute to the Grizzlies building a 21-18 lead.
Sunnyside closed out the jamboree with a 51-51 tie against the defending 'B' State champion Sunnyside Christian Knights. Senior Chad Den Boer hit a fall-away jumper from inside the lane at the buzzer to finish off a spectacular, come-from-behind rally for the Knights.
The top scorers against Sunnyside Christian included senior Frank Espino with 8 points, Palomarez and Montelongo with 7 apiece, Mathew Jongsma and James Baysinger with 6 each, and Nathan Cornelius and Gibby Briones with 5 points apiece.
Sunnyside's first regulation length game of the season is scheduled for this coming Friday at home against Ephrata. Saturday, the Grizzlies will travel to Othello.