WALLA WALLA - Coach Al Smeenk picked up his 500th victory last night when the Sunnyside Christian Lady Knights scooted past the DeSales Irish, 55-34.
The only head coach the Sunnyside Christian girls basketball program has ever had, Smeenk is in his 28th year of coaching.
"It just means you're getting old," Smeenk chuckled of the 500 wins. "I've had some good kids along the way."
Last night in Walla Walla, Smeenk's Lady Knights had difficulty in getting their engines revved up, scoring just six first-quarter points. DeSales fared no better at the outset, settling for five points in the opening stanza.
The second period of play was a different story, however. Led by junior Analisa Van Oostrum's seven-point barrage, the Lady Knights went on a 16-4 run to take a commanding 22-9 lead into halftime.
Both clubs came out on fire after intermission, tallying 44 points between them in the third quarter. DeSales knocked down five shots from 3-point land that period, two apiece by Annie Higgins and Anna Acock. But the Lady Knights countered with four long-range bombs of their own, three off the fingertips of Julie Long. That was enough firepower to boost Sunnyside Christian's lead to 47-28 heading into the final quarter.
From there, it was a cakewalk for the Lady Knights in claiming the 55-34 victory.
Smeenk credits some outstanding defensive play on the part of his team for Wednesday's win. Staying pretty much in a 2-3 zone all night, the Lady Knights forced DeSales to make several bad passes, which ended up resulting in 22 turnovers.
Sunnyside Christian, on the other hand, only turned the ball over 14 times last night. "We've been working on breaking the press, and we're getting better at it," said Smeenk.
The Lady Knights' defensive efforts also resulted in limiting DeSales' 5'10" post, Caitlin Duncan, to one field goal. Normally the Irish's top scorer, she had to settle for six points last night.
Offensively for Sunnyside Christian, four players were in double figures...Long Kelly Newhouse with 11 points apiece, and Jolene Van Wingerden and Hilari Bosma with 10 each.
Also scoring for Sunnyside Christian were Van Oostrum with 7 points, and Alyssa Haak, Janelle DeGroot and Renee Dalrymple with 2 each.
Sunnyside Christian (3-2) next takes on White Swan in the Lady Knights' gym on Tuesday, Jan. 5.