Seven points is the difference betwen second and sixth place," Sunnyside boys basketball Coach Steve Urrutia said of the close losses by his team over the weekend.
The two defeats, 71-69 to Kamiakin last Friday and 57-52 at West Vally on Saturday, gave Sunnyside a league record of 2-4 for sixth-place in the Columbia Basin League, and an overall mark of 3-11 for the season.
On Friday things started well for the host Grizzlies, breaking a 19-19 first quarter tie to go up 38-32 at the half. James Baysinger got things going for Sunnyside with 13 points in the second quarter.
"It was close all game long," said Urrutia. "Our biggest lead was eight points, but we're not the kind of team that's able to run away from an opponent."
Kamiakin chipped into the Sunnyside advantage in the third stanza to make it 48-45 in favor of the Grizzlies heading into the fourth quarter.
The visiting Braves pounded the ball inside in the third, coaxing seven fouls out of Sunnyside to set the stage for a parade to the charity stripe in the fourth.
"They (Kamiakin) had a decided advantage in height," Urrutia observed. "Any chance they got they were pushing the ball because they knew they had some bigger, stronger kids than us."
In the final quarter, Kamiakin connected on 12-of-17 free throw attempts to pull ahead of the Grizzlies.
The Braves led by three inside the final minute when a potential game-tying three-point attempt for Sunnyside rimmed out. Kamiakin went back on offense and collected two free throws to put the game out of reach.
Baysinger then hit a last-second trey to make it a final two-point winning margin for the Braves.
Baysinger scored 25 points and collected four rebounds to lead Sunnyside, followed by teammates Jessie Montelongo and Nate Cornelius with 15 points each.
On Saturday, the Grizzlies got off to a slower start before rallying to make things interesting at West Valley.
Sunnyside trailed the Rams 21-15 after one quarter and 36-28 at intermission. West Valley upped its advantage into double figures at 50-40 heading into the fourth quarter.
"We didn't do a good job of getting back on the press," said Urrutia, who noted that West Valley also found success against his team in a patient, half-court offense.
Things changed in the final stanza, as Sunnyside employed a pressing defense to get as close as four points with two minutes to play.
"We flustered them," Urrutia said of his team's fourth-quarter play against the Rams.
Sunnyside got no closer as the rim seemed to be welded shut, yielding the Grizzlies just two successful three-point buckets in 20 fourth-quarter attempts.
Montelongo led a balanced Sunnyside attack with 14 points, three steals and four assists. Cornelius and teammate Gibby Briones each tallied 10 points for the Grizzlies. Ryan Engel led Sunnyside in the paint with five boards.
"We're still there. We're playing these games close," Urrutia said of his team's hunt for a District playoff berth. "We'll be watching the films to see where it is we need to improve."