Talk about a team effort! Last night, the Sunnyside High School boys basketball team-fully utilizing all 12 members of the varsity-tamed the high spirited Prosser Mustangs.
Third year Coach Steve Urrutia described his club's 81-72 Mid-Valley League victory over Prosser as most likely the greatest win in the last three years for the Grizzly hoop program.
Not only did the victory move the Grizzlies (2-3, 4-7) from near the bottom of the conference standings to the middle of the pack, it came against a Prosser bunch (3-2, 6-4) that is expected to vie for the league title.
"Exponentially, Prosser this season has made a big jump in its basketball program from years past," said Urrutia, noting that not only are the extremely athletic Mustangs no longer the proverbial doormat of the Mid-Valley League, they are considered a threat by all the conference teams. Just ask the Hanford Falcons, the near unanimous pre-season pick by the league's coaches to win it all this season, who were dealt their first conference loss by Prosser last Friday.
To knock off the Mustangs Tuesday evening, well....for Sunnyside the win goes a long way in validating the unconventional style of play the Grizzlies throw at their opponents. Urrutia and his crew totally revamped the Sunnyside system this season, and, to put it bluntly, there have been more naysayers than fans who have vocalized support for the new style of play.
The goal each night is for Sunnyside to put up 90 shots from the field, often times more than half of the attempts coming from behind the 3-point arc. The 1-2-2 fullcourt trapping defense employed by the Grizzlies usually results in numerous turnovers, but it also creates lots of easy lay-ups for the opposing team when they break the press.
"We're having fun with it, even in the losses," Urrutia said of the breakneck pace. "But, it's more fun when you're winning.
"All 12 of our kids are close to 100 percent sold on it. The team chemistry is just about there.
"We're still not playing exactly the style we want," he continued, explaining that the Grizzlies haven't been able to go all-out for all 32 minutes of a game.
"But we're getting closer," he said.
Prosser's Mustangs might disagree, as last night they struggled to keep pace with Sunnyside. The Grizzlies outscored Prosser in three of the four quarters, and the one period the Mustangs did prevail, it was by only a 22-21 margin. In the last three quarters of the contest, Sunnyside put up 66 points.
And, unlike past games this season, the majority of Sunnyside's points didn't come from behind the 3-point arc. In fact, the Grizzlies didn't put up any 3-point attempts in the final quarter. Instead, Sunnyside drew the Mustangs out away from the basket with the threat of shooting a three, then penetrated to the hoop via an open lane.
Despite the team's leading scorer, senior Derrick Simmons, being held to just two points in the opening half, Sunnyside forged a 39-33 first half lead on Prosser. That was due mostly to the number of treys the Grizzlies sank from long range, which included a pair of second quarter bombs by 5'6" sophomore Gibby Briones.
The 6'0" Simmons, it turned out, was questionable for Tuesday's game because of an ear ailment that earlier in the day required medical treatment. Given the nod to play, Simmons took his usual starting spot in the rotation, but in the opening half never really got into the flow of the game. At halftime, Urrutia said, the senior expressed frustration that he wasn't helping the team enough. But, following a one-on-one chat with Assistant Coach Glenn Braman, the contents of which Urrutia declined to reveal, Simmons was a new man after intermission. He proceeded to light up the scoreboard, tossing in 15 points to go along with the 2 he scored in the opening half, which gave him a team high 17 for the game. Simmons, too, ended up with a team high six rebounds and totaled two assists on the night.
Also coming through big for Sunnyside was diminutive D.J. Palomarez, a wispy but smooth 5'6" sophomore called up from the JV a couple of games into the season. Palomarez, whom Urrutia said has probably benefited the most from Sunnyside switching to a fastbreak style of play, popped in 11 points for the Grizzlies. The speedster also came away with three steals and dished two assists.
The play of 6'0" sophomore Justin Bos and 5'10" senior Brandon Coleman also stood out for the Grizzlies last night. Bos scorched the net for 9 points, thanks to three silky treys he launched; and Coleman dropped in 8 points, tallied three steals and was credited with two assists.
Other noteworthy numbers posted by the Grizzlies included Frank Espino's five rebounds and 3 points; Nathan Cornelius's 6 points, three steals and two rebounds; Matthew Jongsma's 5 points, two rebounds and two assists; and James Baysinger's 3 points and three assists. Rounding out the scoring for Sunnyside were Diego Burgueno with 5 points, and Jessie Montelongo and Ryan Engel with 4 apiece.
"All 12 of our players scored," said Urrutia. "And all 12 contributed in other areas, too."
For Prosser, its two big men-Kellen Crawford and Dan Lochrie-dumped in 25 and 20 points, respectively.
"We knew those two would be tough to stop," said Urrutia. "But I give our kids credit. They held the two to a combined eight points in the fourth quarter."