A win last Friday night against league leading West Valley coupled with a Hanford loss would have sent Sunnyside to the District tournament this week.
Although Sunnyside lost to the visiting Rams, Hanford lost as well, setting up a playoff game on Saturday for the Columbia Basin League's sixth and final spot to Districts.
The Grizzlies beat Hanford at Richland High School on Saturday 69-64 to advance to Districts, where they will play the Kennewick Lions in Kennewick this Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to the Regional tournament.
This past Friday Sunnyside played West Valley tough, eventually losing 60-50. The Grizzlies fought the Rams to a draw in the first and third quarters but gave up a five-point difference in both the second and fourth quarters.
"Our defense was much stronger throughout the ball game this time around," Sunnyside Coach Ron Rowe said.
The Grizzlies did have trouble with Matt Borten, who dropped in a game high 25 points for the Rams. Jared Robinson also gave Sunnyside trouble, scoring 19 points against the Grizzlies.
The game was tied at 10 points apiece after the first quarter and the score remained tied for most of the second period until West Valley's Evan Berndt reeled off five points late in the quarter to put the Rams up 27-22 at halftime.
In the third quarter Sunnyside's Jessie Montelongo scored six of his seven points to keep the Grizzlies within five points to start the final quarter.
Rowe said his team gave away a lot of height to the Rams and in the fourth period found it tough to keep Borton out of the paint. West Valley was able to answer all of Sunnyside's points plus five in the final period to come away with the win.
If Hanford would have beaten the Kennewick Lions on Friday, Sunnyside's season would have been over. However, the Lions won, which set up Saturday's match in Richland.
The game was close from the beginning but Sunnyside was in control for most of the day.
"We pretty much led the whole game," Rowe said.
The Grizzlies led 22-16 after one period and would close out the first half with a 35-28 lead.
Montelongo led Sunnyside on the night with 23 points, scoring six points in the second quarter.
Sunnyside's defense was in sync, holding Hanford's Boris Vlaco to 16 points. Kyle Cruzen was a little harder for Sunnyside to control. Cruzen connected for 22 points to lead the Falcons in scoring.
Hanford closed to within three points to end the third quarter and briefly took the lead by one point at the start of the fourth.
Sunnyside buckled down and retook the lead shortly after that, though. The Grizzlies then held on and matched the Falcons point for point.
Free throws figured heavily into Saturday's contest. Sunnyside shot 11-for-16 from the charity stripe in the fourth period to ice the game.
"It's going to be a tough ball game at their place," Rowe said of this coming Wednesday's game with Kennewick. "We need to play hard. Whatever happens, happens. We'll take it one small step at a time."