KENNEWICK - Despite dropping a gut-wrenching 64-60 decision to the Kamiakin Braves last night, which lowered Sunnyside's league record to 3-8, the Grizzly boys basketball team is still in the hunt for a playoff spot.
But with just one conference game remaining, that this coming Friday at home against West Valley, a victory over the Rams is a must. Sunnyside must also rely on Hanford knocking off Eastmont this Friday, a distinct possibility according to Grizzly Coach Steve Urrutia.
"A win by us over West Valley and an Eastmont loss to Hanford would tie us with Eastmont for the league's final playoff berth," Urrutia said. "If that happens, we'll have to have a league tiebreaker game with Eastmont to see who gets into District."
Although the Grizzlies don't totally control their own destiny, the half of the equation they must conquer to reach the postseason means beating a pretty solid West Valley club this Friday. The Rams currently are sitting in the 3A Columbia Basin League's No. 2 spot with a 7-4 conference record, 11-8 overall.
Considering Sunnyside lost by just five points to the Rams on West Valley's home floor four weeks ago, and factoring in how the Grizzlies finished strong last night against Kamiakin, Urrutia's bunch figures they have a shot at qualifying for the playoffs.
To get by West Valley on Friday, however, the Grizzly hoopsters must start much better than they did last night on Kamiakin's home floor. The Braves bolted to a 17-0 lead before Sunnyside woke up.
"You'd think we'd be hanging our heads at that point, down 17-0 at the start of the game," said Urrutia. "But the kids slowly chipped away at Kamiakin's lead."
By the time the first quarter dust settled, the Braves were up 25-8. Sunnyside-behind the double-digit scoring performances of Jesse Montelongo, Nate Cornelius and Adrian Cantu-fought back, though, and clawed to within 35-25 by the time halftime rolled around.
The Grizzlies kept the momentum going after intermission, outscoring Kamiakin by a 21-12 margin in the third quarter to pull within a single point heading into the final stanza of play.
Montelongo, who dropped in a team high 25 points on the night, gave Sunnyside its first lead of the game in the final quarter when he connected on his fourth shot from beyond the 3-point arc.
"That put us up by one," said Urrutia. "From there it went back and forth the rest of the way."
Sunnyside was forced to foul, trailing by two with four seconds showing on the clock. Unfortunately for the Grizzly faithful, the Kamiakin player who went to the free throw line hit both his shots to give the Braves a four-point lead.
"We put up a desperation three at the buzzer in hopes of getting fouled on the play, but it didn't work out," said Urrutia.
Even though the Grizzlies came away with a loss, a positive was gained in realizing they outscored Kamiakin 52-39 in the final three quarters. They're hoping that momentum will carry over to Friday's game against visiting West Valley.
Sunnyside 8 17 21 14 -60
Kamiakin 25 10 12 17 -64
FT-Sunnyside 4/8, Kamiakin 15/19. Rbd.-Sunnyside 28 (Engel 7), Kamiakin 35. TO-Sunnyside 14, Kamiakin 21.
Sunnyside: Briones 3, Montelongo 25, Carpenter 2, Engel 2, Cornelius 15, Cantu 11, Van de Graaf 2.
Kamiakin: Griffith 27.