YAKIMA - The Sunnyside Christian Knights, the top ranked 1B team in the state, picked up a non-league victory last Saturday in a gym that few visiting teams leave from with a win.
Playing at Riverside Christian, currently ranked third in the state 2B poll, Sunnyside Christian knocked off the Crusaders, 56-45. For the Knights, it was their second win of the season against Riverside Christian, having defeated the Crusaders in league play back in early January.
One of the keys to Saturday night's victory was the play of 6'4" senior Cole Van de Graaf.
"They had no answer for Cole inside," said SCHS Coach Dean Wagenaar. Besides scoring 11 points, six of them coming in the first quarter, Van de Graaf scraped five rebounds off the glass. More importantly, the big man drew foul after foul, especially in the second half, "...which put us in the double-bonus at the free throw line early on," said Wagenaar.
Turned out free throws were what won it for the Knights, as Sunnyside Christian went to the charity stripe 20 times in the fourth quarter, connecting on 17 of them. The top marksmen for the Knights down the stretch were Joel Koopmans and Aaron Van de Graaf, who sank 6-of-6 and 7-of-8, respectively, from the foul line.
The 6'1" Aaron Van de Graaf also was deadly from behind the 3-point arc Saturday night, making 3-of-8 shots to round out his team high 20-point performance.
The opening two quarters of Saturday's game proved to be a defensive struggle, as the two clubs went into intermission tied at 20-20.
"The first half we were a little inpatient on offense," said Wagenaar. "We missed some screens. I felt we wasted a few possessions."
After the halftime break, said Wagenaar, the Knights made a few adjustments in setting their screens, and the buckets followed. Sunnyside Christian opened a four-point lead on the Crusaders in the third quarter, extending the advantage to 37-29 by hitting a basket and two free throws to open the final period of play.
"From there we kept it at pretty much a 10-point lead," Wagenaar said.
One of the difficulties in getting past Riverside Christian was containing the Crusaders' point guard, Chris Pynch. He ended up going off for 27 points, but the box-and-one the Knights employed against him resulted in disrupting the flow of the other Crusaders.
"Pynch got a few more points than he normally does, but the modified box-and-one zone we went to, we felt it kept the other kids out of rhythm," said Wagenaar, noting that no Crusader other than Pynch scored more than seven points Saturday.
The Knights (17-0) also did a good job in keeping the large, raucous home crowd in their seats.
"We never let their crowd get into it," said Wagenaar, explaining Sunnyside Christian kept the Crusaders (15-3) from going on any offensive runs. "The most they scored against us at one time was four points," he said.
S'side Christian 11 9 13 23 -56
R'side Christian 11 9 9 16 -45
FG-S'side Christian 17/34, R'side Christian 15/40. 3-pt.-S'side Christian 4/12 (A. Van de Graaf 3), R'side Christian 5/19 (Pynch 4). FT-S'side Christian 18/23, R'side Christian 10/13. Rbds.-S'side Christian 25 (Koopmans 6, C. Van de Graaf 5), R'side Christian 19. TO-S'side Christian 15, R'side Christian 13.
S'side Christian: Koopmans 12, C. Van de Graaf 11, J. Brouwer 0, L. Brouwer 6, A. Van de Graaf 20, DeVries 5, Meininger 0, N. De Jong 2.
R'side Christian: Chris Pynch 27, Ryan Van Beek 7.