Sunnyside's Brandon Coleman turned in what could arguably be called the best game of his prep career this past Friday night. The 5'10" senior canned a game high 20 points to lead the Grizzly boys basketball team to an unlikely 75-59 victory over the West Valley Rams.
The win not only avenged a 19-point loss to the Rams back in mid-December in both teams' Mid-Valley League openers, it also served notice to the rest of the teams in the conference that Sunnyside is no longer the bubble team fighting for the league's sixth and final playoff berth into the District tourney.
Friday's victory boosted the Grizzlies' league record to 3-4, 6-9 overall. The win also was Sunnyside's first over West Valley in what the Grizzly faithful believe to be nearly a decade.
"I didn't think we'd see the day when we beat West Valley," said third year Sunnyside Coach Steve Urrutia. "This is bigger than the Prosser win two weeks ago."
Besides notching a victory against an always tough West Valley team, Friday's win also goes a long way in validating Sunnyside's radical departure from tried-and-true basketball to a fast-and-furious form of hoops that many traditionalists so far have only shaken their heads at. Game in and game out, the Grizzlies' goal is to wear their opponents down with a fullcourt 1-2-2 trapping defense that's designed to create 40 or more turnovers a contest. On the offensive side of the ball, Sunnyside looks to put up at least 90 shots a game, with 50 or so of those field goal attempts coming from behind the 3-point arc.
Sunnyside didn't reach those lofty numbers against West Valley last Friday. But the Grizzlies' game plan did work in wearing down the Rams, who couldn't go step-for-step with the Sunnyside boys down the stretch. Clearly exhausted in the latter stages of the game, West Valley relinquished an 11-point lead and eventually succumbed by the final 16-point margin of defeat.
And it was Coleman who stepped to the forefront down the stretch. With his club in a pretty deep hole midway through the third quarter, he hit two shots that helped bring the Grizzlies to within three points heading into the final stanza of play-the first a twisting, snaking, driving lay-up and the other a 3-point bomb.
It was also Coleman who stepped up big in the fourth quarter, drilling two more long range treys to give him a game high five 3's. Along with sophomore Gibby Briones' two fourth period treys, and senior Derrick Simmons going 4-for-4 from the free throw line enroute to popping in six points in the final quarter, Sunnyside outscored the Rams 28-9 in the final eight minutes to subdue the visitors.
Along with the game high 20 points netted by Coleman, Sunnyside received double-digit scoring from Simmons and James Baysinger with 14 and 11 points, respectively. Briones added 9 points, and Ryan Engel and Jessie Montelongo chipped in 7 apiece.
West Valley had three players in double figures-Spencer Douglas with 15 points, Tim Wagar with 12 and Jordan Juarez with 10 points.
Sunnyside trailed the Rams by six at the half, due mostly to some shoddy shooting from the free throw line.
"We only went 12-for-22 with our free throws in the first half," said Urrutia. "We definitely emphasized that at halftime."
The Grizzlies didn't improve all that much in the second half, hitting just 13-of-20 from the charity stripe. "Bu t we hit them when we needed to....especially there at the end," Urrutia said.
In looking ahead, things don't get any easier for Sunnyside. The Grizzlies are scheduled to hit the road this Tuesday against Hanford, currently holding down the second place spot in the conference standings. Then, this coming Friday, Sunnyside will host the league leading Ellensburg Bulldogs.
How will the Grizzlies prepare for the top two teams in the Mid-Valley League?
"It'll just be more of the same," Urrutia said of this week's game plans, although he did add Sunnyside will be tweaking the defensive alignment a bit in hopes of containing Hanford's 6'10" center.
West Valley 13 21 16 9 -59
Sunnyside 15 13 19 28 -75
FG-West Valley 20/44, Sunnyside 20/58. 3-pt. FG-West Valley 6/16 (Douglas 4), Sunnyside 10/39 (Coleman 5, Briones 2, Simmons 2). FT-West Valley 13/18, Sunnyside 25/42. Rbds.-West Valley 44 (Robinson 7, Wagar 7), Sunnyside 30 (Engel 5, Simmons 4, Montelongo 4). TO-West Valley 26, Sunnyside 9.
West Valley: Walkenhauer 7, Cherry 6, Borden 2, Jennings 3, Burndt 2, Douglas 15, Juarez 10, Hancock 2, Wagar 12.
Sunnyside: Coleman 20, Montelongo 7, Briones 9, Simmons 14, Espino 0, Palomarez 1, Engel 7, Jongsma 3, Cornelius 0, Burgueno 0, Baysinger 11, Van de Graff 3.