'Welcome to Dinner at Center Court' newest Sunnyside boys basketball tradition


Grizzly coaches (L-R) Paul Van Pelt, Glenn Braman, Steve Urrutia, Darren Mezger and Bruce Lindell address the crowd at Thursday evening's first ever "Welcome to Dinner at Center Court" event. Laura Simmons (back left) was instrumental in coordinating the spaghetti dinner get-together.

"It is amazing what you can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit."

Those words, which pretty much sum up the philosophy of this year's Grizzly hoop team, appeared at the end of a 15-minute season highlight film that brought to an end the first ever "Welcome to Dinner at Center Court" festivities, hosted Thursday evening by the Sunnyside High School boys basketball team.

With about 60 of the Grizzly faithful in attendance-coaches, players and their families, and a few select guests-the night was dedicated to sharing the joy of the 2005-06 season. The festivities also, in a more subtle nature, served as a springboard to what the Grizzlies hope will be a successful postseason run.

The Sunnyside boys hoop team closes out regular season play tonight (Friday) at home. A win against the Wapato Wolfpack will give the Grizzlies a third place finish in the Mid-Valley League standings, as well as guaranteeing Sunnyside a home game in the District playoffs next Wednesday. If the Grizzlies prevail tonight, they'll finish conference play above the .500 mark, at 7-5. It will be the first time in a number of years Sunnyside will have posted a winning record in league play.

Third year coach Steve Urrutia laughingly told those in attendance last night that with this year's radical departure from tried-and-tried basketball, he had heard just about every adjective from those not sold on the unconventional style of hoops he switched the Grizzlies to this season. He credited the players' families for the support they have shown this season while the transition was being made, and reiterated that without the coaches he has on staff, what success the Grizzlies have had thus far wouldn't have been possible.

Sunnyside's new style of basketball is aimed at wearing out the Grizzlies' opponents. The new team motto is, "When the legs go, the heart and the head follow quickly."

Towards that end, the Grizzlies employ a fullcourt 1-2-2 trapping defense for the entire 32 minutes of each game, routinely resulting in upwards of 30 to 40 turnovers a contest. Sunnyside is able to keep up the frenetic pace because Urrutia substitutes in five players at a time every minute or so-resulting in the team's new nickname: THE MINUTE MEN. On the offensive side of the ball, Sunnyside's game plan is to get off at least one shot every 10 seconds-commonly 50 or more of those attempts coming from behind the 3-point arc.

To put it simply, it's willy-nilly basketball that has spectators swiveling their heads back-and-forth at such a rate it's surprising some fans haven't sent the Grizzlies medical bills for chiropractic treatment on their necks.

And amazingly, the success Sunnyside has found this season has been without the benefit of any real superstars. None of the Grizzlies are what anyone would refer to as a pure shooter, and none stand taller than 6'1". It's true team basketball, where routinely four to eight players on each given night score anywhere from five to 10 points apiece.

Urrutia said the team is hoping the enthusiasm it has caught will spread to the community.

"We'd like Friday night (tonight) to be Grizzly night, where everyone comes out for the last regular game of the season," he said.

"And, of course, we're hoping to see the gym full if we get to host a District playoff game next Wednesday.

"Hopefully, there are some more memories to make," he added.


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