RICHLAND - It would have been easy to abandon ship last night after the Hanford boys basketball team jumped out to a 26-7 first quarter lead. Instead, the Sunnyside Grizzlies fought back, going tit-for-tat with the Falcons the second quarter and outscoring Hanford after intermission to avert a blowout.
In the end, Hanford came away with a 74-57 win. That was due chiefly to the Falcons' big man-6'10" Steve Severin-who dumped in a team high 19 points, led Hanford to a 40 to 29 rebounding advantage with eight boards and also came through with eight blocks.
Defensively, the game plan was to smother Severin by fronting and backing him with two Grizzly defenders.
"We only had a chance to practice it one night," said Sunnyside Coach Steve Urrutia. "Against ourselves it looked pretty good," he chuckled, adding that actually executing the defensive tactic turned out to be a bit more difficult than what the Grizzlies could simulate in practice.
It didn't help matters any that Hanford connected on just over 70 percent of its shots in the opening quarter enroute to building a 26-7 lead. Tom Begalka, who finished with 18 points for the Falcons, nailed three 3-pointers in that opening stanza.
"We started out flat," Urrutia said.
"At the beginning, we looked the same as when we played them the first time," he added, explaining how the Falcons intimidated Sunnyside in their first meeting two and a half weeks ago, which resulted in a 92-58 blowout loss.
But this time around, instead of lying down and letting the Falcons have their way, the Grizzlies opted to fight back. Spearheaded by the efforts of 5'10" senior Brandon Coleman, Sunnyside got much more aggressive with its 1-2-2 fullcourt trapping defense and all-out rapid fire offensive attack.
"We shot better the second half, but really the way we turned it around was by being more aggressive," said Urrutia. "(Players) are going to make more mistakes when the pace is fast, and it turned out that way after intermission," he said, noting that Hanford was whistled for numerous traveling calls and coughed up the ball much more after the Grizzlies began executing their style of play. Unofficially, Sunnyside forced the Falcons into committing roughly 30 turnovers last night.
Offensively in the comeback bid by Sunnyside, it was Coleman who led the charge. He threw in a game high 21 points, with 15 of those coming on five shots from behind the 3-point arc. It was the second straight game Coleman has led the Grizzlies in scoring, having tossed in 20 points in Sunnyside's 75-59 victory over West Valley last Friday.
"Brandon (Coleman) is definitely stroking the ball right now," said Urrutia. "It seems he's a better end-of-the-season type player. Traditionally, he's started out each season slowly, but he seems to come on stronger at the end of the year."
Along with a 10-point effort from James Baysinger and 9 points from Jessie Montelongo, Sunnyside eventually whittled the Falcons' lead to just 12 points.
"But we weren't able to deliver the knockout punch," Urrutia said.
One of the reasons for that may have been in the number of times Sunnyside got to the free throw line. All told, the Grizzlies were only awarded eight foul shots, sinking six of them. Hanford (5-2, 11-3), on the other hand, benefited from the officials' calls with 26 trips to the charity stripe, popping in 15 of the free throws.
Sunnyside (3-5, 6-10) is scheduled to take on Mid-Valley League leading Ellensburg (7-1, 10-6) this coming Friday in the Grizzly gym.
Sunnyside 7 15 19 16 -57
Hanford 26 17 16 15 -74
Sunnyside: Coleman 21, Montelongo 9, Briones 2, Simmons 7, Espino 0, Palomarez 3, Engel 2, Jongsma 2, Cornelius 0, Burgueno 0, Baysinger 10, Bos 1, Van de Graaf 0.