ZILLAH - The 1B Sunnyside Christian High School boys basketball team clinched its 10th consecutive trip to the State tourney with a 49-29 win over Klickitat this past Friday in the Greater Columbia 'B' League District championship game.
Klickitat later advanced to the big dance as the league's second seed.
"They made us work for our points," Sunnyside Christian Coach Dean Wagenaar said of the Vandals' attempt to slow down the game, played at Zillah Middle School's gym.
Klickitat's strategy may have kept it a low scoring game, but it didn't keep the Knights at bay, as Sunnyside Christian rolled out to a 12-2 first quarter lead and a 26-8 advantage at the break.
"They played a sagging man defense and plugged the middle so we had to be patient," Wagenaar said of the Vandals' defensive approach. "They made us have to beat them from the outside."
The Knights responded, shooting 3-of-8 from treyland in the first half for a nearly 50 percent clip.
Jesse Brouwer helped Sunnyside to a fast start, with seven of his 12 points coming in the first quarter. Teammate Joel Koopmans kept the pressure on in the second stanza, scoring seven of his game-high 18 points in the period.
But it was Sunnyside Christian's pressure defense against Klickitat's half-court offense that especially pleased Wagenaar.
"We did a great job defensively in the first half," the coach said. "In the second half we were more conservative on defense and substituted freely at the end."
Herschel Sanchey led Klickitat with 10 points, eight of those coming in the third quarter to help keep the Vandals within 20 points.
Sunnyside was led by Koopmans' 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Brouwer collected 12 points, and teammate Jason Friend collected seven points to go with seven rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists.
Sunnyside Christian (16-5) now advances to the State 1B tourney starting this Wednesday at the SunDome in Yakima.
The Knights' first-round opponent will be Odessa in a contest starting at 2 p.m.
"We've got a tough draw," Wagenaar said of the Knights' push to defend last year's State title. "The toughest first-round opponent we could have gotten was Liberty Christian or Odessa."
Calling it one of the "top number two seeds in the tourney," Wagenaar said Odessa is "a very good team. They're pretty quick and they have a good point guard who makes great decisions."
The Knights opened last year's title run with a 49-29 win over Odessa in first-round action.
Sunnyside Christian has a 6-3 record on opening day State tourney contests during its current run.
The goal is to make it 7-3.
"We have to find a way to win," said Wagenaar. "Our motto is advance."
If Sunnyside Christian wins Wednesday, it will play either Rosalia or North River at 5 p.m. Thursday. A loss would put the Knights into the consolation breakfast bracket in a 10:30 a.m. Thursday contest against Rosalia or North River.