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Knights hold their own against the bigger boys

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Nick De Jong of Sunnyside Christian drives past a Wapato defender at last night's Sunnyside High School Boys Basketball Jamboree. De Jong and the Knights lost a pair of mini-games to Wapato and Sunnyside

The varsity squad for the class 1B Sunnyside Christian Knights gave the 2A Wapato Wolves and the 3A Sunnyside Grizzlies all they could handle last night.

Unfortunately for Sunnyside Christian, Tuesday night's jamboree in the Grizzly gym also included the play of each school's junior varsity. Each of the games consisted of four, five-minute quarters, with the JV units playing the first half and the varsity closing out the action in the final two periods.

"Our JV team struggled with handling the larger schools' athleticism," said Sunnyside Christian Coach Dean Wagenaar. "Our JV team is pretty young."

The end result for the Knights were a pair of 38-32 and 52-31 losses to Wapato and Sunnyside, respectively. Neither of the defeats, however, will go on Sunnyside Christian's season record because they were not regulation-length contests.

In their first match-up of the evening the Knights varsity took the floor trailing Wapato by a 19-10 count. But behind an 11-point effort by guard Aaron Van de Graaf, which included knocking down two shots from treyland, and 5 points from his 6'4" cousin, Cole Van de Graaf, Sunnyside Christian fought back to cut the final deficit to just 38-32.

In outscoring the Wapato varsity 22-19, the Knights relied on their half-court offense. "We didn't make much happen in transition," said Wagenaar.

Wapato, he said, ran predominantly a man-defense against his club. The Knights responded on offense by rotating into their different scoring sets.

In addition to the combined 16 points from the Van de Graaf cousins, Sunnyside Christian got two points apiece from Lucas Brouwer, Brandon DeVries and Andy Freepons.

Against the host Sunnyside Grizzlies the Knights varsity relieved their JV counterparts trailing 28-11. Sunnyside went on to outscore the Knights varsity, but only by a 24-20 count.

Wagenaar said at the outset of the varsity portion of the contest he experimented a bit. "We tried some half-court trapping.

"It didn't work real well," he added in explaining how Sunnyside's varsity forged a 16-9 advantage.

"We played much better when we went to our 2-3 match-up zone. We were able to identify their shooters," he said.

The Knights fought back to make a game of it with Sunnyside, paced by the shooting of Brouwer, who sank two 3-pointers enroute to scoring a team high 8 points. Sunnyside Christian also got a pair of 6-point performances from Cole Van de Graaf and DeVries.

In getting outscored 24-20 in the varsity half of the game, the Knights didn't do themselves any favors at the free throw line. "We hit just 4-of-10 free throws," said Wagenaar. "We shot terribly."

Sunnyside Christian was without one of its key players last night, as junior Joel Koopmans was out of the line-up because he doesn't yet have enough practices in to play with the team. Koopmans, said Wagenaar, is a savvy player who will bring both scoring and rebounding to the club.

In looking ahead to the first regulation game of the season, Wagenaar said his Knights will have their work cut out for them at Liberty Christian this coming Friday. A two-time winner at last night's Mabton jamboree, Liberty Christian features an extremely tall front line that likes to pack the ball inside the paint.

"They're one of the best 1B teams in the state," Wagenaar said of the Richland club. "We want to turn it into a full-court game against them. We'll be looking to run."

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