GOLDENDALE - Runners-up at last year's 1B State girls basketball tournament, the Sunnyside Christian Lady Knights are one victory away from a return trip to the Yakima SunDome.
Sunnyside Christian opened postseason play yesterday in Goldendale with a dominating 82-32 win over Klickitat in the first round of the Greater Columbia 'B' League District tournament. A victory over the Trout Lake Mustangs tomorrow (Friday) in the District title game at Zillah Middle School will mean the Lady Knights are SunDome-bound. A loss to Trout Lake in Friday's 6 p.m. District championship game would force Sunnyside Christian into a loser-out game this Saturday, with the winner earning the District's No. 2 berth into the State tourney.
Even though Sunnyside Christian claimed fairly easy 77-30 and 52-26 victories over Trout Lake earlier this season, Coach Al Smeenk said his Lady Knights' foe this Friday in the District title game poses a challenge.
"They've got a State title track and field banner hanging in their gym," Smeenk said of Trout Lake. "They have some very athletic girls.
"They also have a couple of good guards, and they all can run.
"Trout Lake is a formidable opponent," he said.
The game plan for Sunnyside Christian this Friday, Smeenk explained, will be to run right along with the Mustangs.
"We'll run, too. And, we'll press them, keep putting pressure on them.
"We believe we have more depth on our team, and hopefully the outcome of the game will show that," he said.
Despite Smeenk's concerns about tomorrow's opponent, the Lady Knights (18-2) are the overwhelming favorites to advance to State as this District's No. 1 seed. Especially considering the way Sunnyside Christian dismantled the Klickitat Vandals yesterday.
Employing a full-court press intermittently throughout the game, Sunnyside Christian came away with 39 steals. Senior Emma Newhouse was the chief beneficiary, tallying a game-best nine steals with her excellent defensive play.
Just as impressive was the offensive effort of the Lady Knights yesterday. Sunnyside Christian connected on 60 percent of its 2-point field goal attempts (37-of-62).
The hottest hand was that of 6'0" junior Andrea Schutt. She dumped in 12-of-14 shots, mainly from the paint, enroute to scorching the net for a game-high 24 points.
Newhouse also scored in double figures for the Lady Knights, tallying 10 points. Junior Melanie Van Wingerden added a nine-point effort for the winners, with sophomores Hilari Bosma, Julie Long and Joleen Van Wingerden each chipping in eight points.
Sunnyside Christian was up 70-17 entering the final quarter, at which point Smeenk sat all his starters for the remainder of the game.
"All 12 of our kids got a lot of playing time, through all four quarters," said Smeenk.
About the only thing he said his team could have improved upon yesterday was the defensive effort of his reserves.
"The girls coming in off the bench, they could have played better defense. There wasn't a lot of blocking out going on," he said.
Still, Smeenk was more than pleased with the overall effort of his club, saying all 12 of his players contributed in the win over the Vandals.