ZILLAH - The Sunnyside Christian High School boys basketball team began its quest for a third straight State 1B Championship this past weekend by brushing aside Trout Lake/Glenwood on Friday night and then outlasting Klickitat on Saturday to put themselves in the driver's seat for the lone State berth from the Greater Columbia 1B League.
The Knights will play the winner of this coming Tuesday's game between Klickitat and Yakama Tribal high schools on Friday, Feb. 20, at Goldendale High School at 7:30 p.m. If the Knights win they are in the state tournament, lose and they play the same team again on Saturday for a winner-take-all game.
Sunnyside Christian (10-11) started its march for the District title with a 66-38 beating of Trout Lake/Glenwood on Friday night at Zillah Middle School. Despite the lopsided score the first half was a nail biter.
"I was pretty concerned," SCHS Coach Dean Wagenaar said. "This is our first District game (of the season) and a lot of the kids playing were in their first District game and we're playing for keeps. The environment is very different."
Trout Lake/Glenwood played well in the first half, executing their plays with crispness and displaying good ball handling skills. The pace of the game was slow, which suited Trout Lake/Glenwood, and the Mustangs managed to shoot the ball well to hang with the Knights in the first quarter.
Wagenaar said his team tried to trap TLG but was burned by some outside shots and a few three-point plays. Towards the end of the first half the Knights deployed a 2-2-1 half-court trap that was much more effective.
Trout Lake/Glenwood still hung tough, though, trailing by just one point, 23-22, at halftime.
In the second half the Knights' trapping defense finally started to pay off and Trevor Wagenaar scored a quick eight points at the end of the third quarter to give SCHS a 38-27 lead going into the final period.
To open the fourth Wagenaar scored the first six points as SCHS stretched its lead to 44-27 early in the quarter. The Knights cruised after that.
"We had a bunch of steals in the second half," the Sunnyside Christian coach explained. "We tired them out and everything became real hard for them."
Steven Broersma led the Knights with 15 points and five rebounds. Wagenaar followed with 14 points, five rebounds and four steals. Tim DeVries scored nine points for the Knights and had three steals. Matt Crabtree and Steven Bosma each scored seven points for SCHS and Danny Van Boven had five points, three assists and two steals.
Tygh Schuster led Trout Lake/Glenwood with 13 points and teammate Luke Deardon had 11.
In Saturday's District semi-final game the Knights took on Klickitat High School, beating the Vandals 55-43.
Sunnyside Christian controlled the game for the most part. The Knights jumped out to a four-point lead after one quarter and led 28-19 by halftime. By the start of the final period the Knights led 41-29 and seemed to be cruising towards victory.
That's when the Vandals decided to make things interesting.
Up 43-30, the Knights committed some defensive mistakes that allowed Klickitat to knock on the door. Michael McConville hit two quick three-point shots and then Levi Sanchey hit another three and all of a sudden the Knights' lead shrunk to just four points, 43-39.
"I was going uh oh," Wagenaar admitted. "We had controlled the pace of the entire game up until that point."
Wagenaar said his team then spread the floor to try and get some room and that's when DeVries drove the lane and hit a pull-up jumper to give the Knights a six-point lead. Another quick basket by the Knights and SCHS was back up by eight points.
SCHS then buckled down on defense, forcing the Vandals to take some tough shots that they missed. The Knights then matched Klickitat shot for shot to win down the stretch by 11.
Broersma again led the Knights with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Ryker Van Belle scored 10 points for the Knights, including six points in the final period. Van Boven did a good job of running the offense for the Knights and scored 10 points. Both Wagenaar and DeVries had seven points.
Klickitat was led by McConville and Sanchey with 10 points each.
"It was a good game," Wagenaar said. "It was good to see the kids react when they had to down the stretch.
"But, we're not there yet," he added. "We will be fanatical with our preparation this week.