MOSES LAKE - The game you've all been waiting for-the state's top ranked Sunnyside Christian Knights versus your number two ranked Moses Lake Christian Lions.
The large, boisterous crowd didn't really need to hear those words from the pre-game announcer last night to get jacked up for the non-league match-up. Packed to the rafters, the Moses Lake Christian Academy gym was clearly sizzling well before tip-off.
"Oh yeah, their crowd was pumped," said Sunnyside Christian Coach Dean Wagenaar. "There was a lot of electricity there last night."
Unfortunately for the home crowd, the preview of what many think will be the match-up in the class 1B State tournament title game in late February didn't go the way of Lions fans. Sunnyside Christian ebbed out to a small lead, eventually building the advantage as the game progressed until Moses Lake Christian was clearly out of it early on in the fourth quarter.
Final score: Knights 54-Lions 44.
"We didn't allow Moses Lake to make any runs," said Wagenaar. "We got ahead and stayed ahead. It kept the crowd out of it."
The loss was only Moses Lake Christian's second of the season. The Knights improved to 18-0 with the 10-point victory.
In defeating the Lions on their home floor, Sunnyside Christian accomplished the task without revealing all of its defensive alignments.
"We stayed in our straight match-up 2-3 defense the entire game," Wagenaar said. "No use giving them a look at something we might use later on."
However, that basic defensive coverage was more than enough to subdue Moses Lake Christian. Only two of the Lions scored in double figures, and both managed just 11 points.
That clearly wasn't enough to counter the game-high 23-point effort by SCHS senior Aaron Van de Graaf, nor the 11-point performance of his cousin, 6'4" senior Cole Van de Graaf. The Sunnyside Christian trio of Jesse Brouwer, Lucas Brouwer and Joel Koopmans also combined for 18 points in Tuesday night's game.
"Every kid on the team played extremely well last night," said Wagenaar. "I can't say enough about how hard, how well all of our kids played."
One of the most sparkling stats that came out of the non-league match-up was the season-low six turnovers for Sunnyside Christian. "We did a great job of taking care of the ball.
"Several times Moses Lake tried to press us, but we broke it each time, usually by passing over the top and getting a quick basket. They took it off pretty quickly each time," said Wagenaar.
One of the concerns for the Knights heading into the game was containing the Lions' big man-6'6" Riggs Yarbro. He was one of the two Moses Lake players who ended up with 11 points.
"Our kids did a great job of rotating on him," Wagenaar said. "To hold him to 11 points, we'll take that."
Wagenaar also praised the play of the Knights defending the perimeter, crediting their hustling, hands-up defensive tactics for numerous deflections and swipes. Lucas Brouwer was especially effective, coming away with a team high four steals.
Wagenaar, too, mentioned the play of Koopmans last night. Although the 6'1" junior, the team's second leading scorer, was held to just five points, Koopmans drew lots of double-teams, "...which opened it up for our other kids," said Wagenaar. Koopmans contributed mightily on the boards, as well, snatching a team high five rebounds to lead the Knights to a 21 to 20 advantage with caroms gathered in off the glass.
Sunnyside Christian closes out Greater Columbia 'B' League play this Friday at home against Yakama Tribal. The following night, the Knights close out the regular season with a non-league game at DeSales in Walla Walla.
S'side Christian 13 9 15 17 -54
Moses Lake Christ. 11 10 11 12 -44
FG-S'side Christian 18/34, Moses Lake Christ. 17/33. 3-pt.-S'side Christian 4/12 (A. Van de Graaf 3/6), Moses Lake Christ. 5/13 (Friehe 3). FT-S'side Christian 14/22, Moses Lake Christ. 5/7. Rbds.-S'side Christian 21 (Koopmans 5, C. Van de Graaf 4, A. Van de Graaf 4), Moses Lake Christ. 20. TO-S'side Christian 6, Moses Lake Christ. 13.
S'side Christian: Koopmans 5, L. Brouwer 6, J. Brouwer 7, C. Van de Graaf 11, A. Van de Graaf 23, DeVries 2, Meininger 0, N. De Jong 0.
Moses Lake Christ.: Phillip Friehe 11, Riggs Yarbro 11.