PROSSER - "One for the ages." That's how third year Sunnyside Coach Steve Urrutia described the Grizzlies' thrilling 82-80 overtime victory over Prosser last Friday night.
The monumental come-from-behind victory, in which the Sunnyside boys basketball team was down 72-57 with just under two and a half minutes to play in regulation, vaulted the Grizzlies into the No. 3 spot in the Mid-Valley League standings.
Should Sunnyside knock off last place Wapato this coming Friday in its final regular season game, the Grizzlies would host a first round District tournament game. Sunnyside, now 6-5 in conference play and 9-10 overall, trails only Hanford (8-2, 15-3) and Ellensburg (8-2, 11-7) in the league standings.
In rallying from behind for the victory on the Mustangs' home court last Friday, Sunnyside claimed a sweep of Prosser this season, having beat the 'Stangs by an 81-72 score back in early January. The loss was especially painful for Prosser (5-6, 11-8), as the Mustangs in all likelihood will now have to open District tourney play on the road.
Prosser appeared to have last Friday's game well in hand, especially after jumping out to a 21-11 first quarter lead. Early on, said Urrutia, the Grizzlies' vaunted 1-2-2 fullcourt trapping defense wasn't creating the turnovers it was designed to. The 'Stangs, he explained, had little trouble in breaking the trap, and in doing so found easy lane after easy lane to the bucket.
"It's our bread-and-butter, but I was faced with the decision of sticking with it and giving up easy basket after easy basket, or trying something different," said Urrutia. He opted to pull off the fullcourt trap, switching over to a halfcourt trap that basically eliminated Prosser's uncontested drives to the hoop.
The defensive switch stopped the Mustang stampede, but Prosser was still in firm control of the game, even in the latter stages, ahead by 15 points with just 2:26 showing on the clock in the fourth quarter. In fact, the game seemed so in hand that numerous people who trekked to Prosser for the match-up began heading for the exits at that point in time.
BIG MISTAKE, that is if you were a Grizzly fan and wanted to witness one of the best comebacks ever staged by a Sunnyside team.
Junior James Baysinger started the late game heroics for Sunnyside, hitting a pair of 3-pointers to cut Prosser's lead from 72-57 to 72-63. Ironically, Baysinger hadn't scored up to that point and those two buckets from behind the 3-point arc would be the only points he notched last Friday.
Baysinger was fouled on the second 3-pointer he bombed in, but missed the shot from the charity stripe. Teammate Nathan Cornelius rebounded the miss, however, and was rewarded for his hustle when Derrick Simmons just 12 seconds later fed him the ball for a lay-in, which closed the gap on Prosser to 72-65.
On the ensuing in-bounds play by Prosser, senior Brandon Coleman swiped the ball and drove for yet another Sunnyside lay-in. That cut the Mustangs' lead to 72-67.
Urrutia had switched the Grizzlies back into their fullcourt 1-2-2 trapping defense down the stretch, and unlike early on in the game, the Mustangs were unable to deal with it. After Coleman's steal and lay-up, Cornelius came away with another steal to give Sunnyside possession of the ball with just over a minute remaining in regulation. Simmons was quickly fouled, and he sank both free throws to cut the deficit to 72-69.
Following yet another Prosser turnover, one of 30 the Mustangs would commit in the game, Jessie Montelongo's 3-point attempt missed the mark, but Simmons grabbed the carom off the shot hoisted by his teammate. Working the ball around the horn, Simmons spotted Coleman open, dishing him the ball. Coleman squared from beyond the 3-point arc, letting fly with a bomb that found its way to the bottom of the net...and in the process tied the game at 72-all with only 30 ticks left on the clock.
Another Prosser turnover resulted in Montelongo attempting the game winner, but the shot wouldn't fall. The Mustangs put up one last shot in regulation, but that, too, was off the mark, which sent the game into overtime.
The two squads exchanged buckets once the overtime session got underway, but when Simmons fed Cornelius with a pass for an uncontested lay-in, giving the Grizzlies a 76-74 lead, Sunnyside wouldn't relinquish the lead again.
Prosser cut the deficit to 76-75 by making one-of-two free throws, but a Cornelius lay-in with 1:04 to play pushed the Grizzlies' lead to 78-75. The 'Stangs countered with a lay-in of their own to again crawl within one, but forced to foul they sent Gibby Briones to the free throw line, who made both to extend Sunnyside's lead to 80-77. A lay-in by Coleman after Prosser failed to convert on its next possession stretched Sunnyside's lead to 82-77. The Mustangs banked in a 3-point shot with two seconds left to account for the final 82-80 score.
When asked if there were a couple of key Sunnyside players who elevated their games above that of their teammates, Urrutia said there were a lot of big shots by a lot of different people Friday night. When pressed, Urrutia said it is difficult to look past the play of Simmons.
Not only did the 6'0" senior drop in a team high 17 points, he tallied several key assists in the game and came up with three pivotal steals. And his leadership down the stretch, said Urrutia, was inspiring...especially when you consider he hyper-extended his knee with three minutes remaining in regulation.
"He wouldn't come out of the game," said Urrutia. "He refused to. He was noticeably hurt, but he wanted to be out there at the end.
"I'll go to battle with him any day," Urrutia added.
In addition to the 17 points Simmons had, Sunnyside received 13 and 11-point scoring efforts from Coleman and Montelongo, respectively. Rebounding-wise, Baysinger, Cornelius and Ryan Engel combined for 13 boards. That kept Sunnyside close to Prosser on the glass, as the much taller Mustangs came away with only a 49 to 39 rebounding advantage.
The 5'10" Cornelius, only a sophomore, also sparkled Friday. Besides the four rebounds he snared, he tied Simmons for the team lead in steals (three apiece), and dumped in 9 points-four of them coming in the crucial OT period.
S'side 11 24 16 21 10 -82
Prosser 21 21 14 16 8 -80
2-pt. FG-Sunnyside 16/31, Prosser 29/46. 3-pt. FG-Sunnyside 14/54 (Simmons 3/8, Coleman 3/9, Montelongo 3/10, Baysinger 2/6), Prosser 3/8. FT-Sunnyside 8/18, Prosser 13/28. Rbds.-Sunnyside 39 (Baysinger 5, Cornelius 4, Engel 4), Prosser 49 (Edwards 16, Moore 11). TO-Sunnyside 16,Prosser 30.
Sunnyside: Coleman 13, Montelongo 11, Briones 7, Simmons 17, Espino 4, Bos 3, Palomarez 0, Engel 4, Jongsma 0, Cornelius 9, Burgueno 6, Baysinger 6, Van de Graaf 2.
Prosser: Torres 8, Edwards 15, Moore 1, Frank 2, Lochrie 11, Brophy 21, Nichols 7, Hartley 2, Anderson 13.