ZILLAH - Barring an upset that would rival the 1980 Herb Brooks-led U.S. Olympic hockey team upsetting the powerful Red Machine from Russia, the Sunnyside Christian High School girls basketball team will be making yet another appearance at this year's 1B State tournament.
The Lady Knights cruised easily through their first two District tourney games last weekend in Zillah, crushing Bickleton 65-15 and mauling Klickitat 73-31.
The only things standing in Sunnyside Christian's way in locking up the District's lone berth to State are those same two teams the Lady Knights knocked off so handily last weekend. Bickleton and Klickitat will play tonight (Tuesday) to see which team will advance to this coming Friday's District title showdown against Sunnyside Christian. And, should the Lady Knights somehow get upset in Friday's 6 p.m. District championship contest at Goldendale, either Bickleton or Klickitat would have to repeat the feat the following day on Saturday, as this year's District tourney is a double-elimination affair.
Sunnyside Christian, behind the double-digit scoring performance of senior Melanie Van Wingerden, took a 16-0 lead into the second quarter against Bickleton in last Friday's District opener. The Lady Knights tacked on another 21 points in the second period while only allowing one two-point bucket, that coming from the Lady Pirates' leading scorer this season, Katelyn Clinton.
Up 37-2 at the half, the Lady Knights went on to outscore Bickleton by a 28-13 margin after intermission.
Van Wingerden, in scoring a game-high 16 points Friday evening, went over the 1,000-point mark for her prep career. Sunnyside Christian Coach Al Smeenk said the 5'10" senior is the seventh or eighth girl in the history of the Lady Knight hoop program to achieve that feat.
Besides winning its District opener, Smeenk said there was a big positive that came out of last Friday's game. The Lady Knights have been struggling with their free throw shooting this season, but against Bickleton they made their first 11 shots from the foul line, ending the contest 13-for-15 from the charity stripe.
Besides the 16 points notched by the senior Van Wingerden, Sunnyside Christian received a nine-point effort from Kelly Newhouse, and a pair of eight-point performances from Julie Long and junior Joleen Van Wingerden.
Clinton finished as Bickleton's top scorer with her 11-point effort.
Saturday's District semi-final tilt against the Klickitat Vandals didn't hold much more suspense than Friday's game did. The Lady Knights burst out to a 24-11 first quarter lead, extending the advantage to 39-18 at the half. Any shot for a Klickitat comeback quickly evaporated, as the Lady Knights went on a 20-5 run in the third quarter.
Saturday's game was different from the night before, however, as just about everybody got into the act for Sunnyside Christian. Five players ended up scoring in double figures, including the older Van Wingerden with a game-high 16 points. Adding performances of 12, 11, 11 and 10 points, respectively, were Long, Newhouse, Abby Bangs and Hilari Bosma. Renee Dalrymple chipped in seven points for the winners, as well.
Long, in tallying 12 points, hit 4-of-6 shots from behind the 3-point arc.
The Lady Knights weren't quite as proficient from the free throw line as the night before, but still made 8-of-12 against the Vandals.
Rebounding-wise, Sunnyside Christian crashed the boards and snared 29 loose balls, thanks to a game-high seven rebounds by Newhouse, compared to Klickitat's 13 total rebounds.
The District tournament switches venues this week, moving from Zillah Middle School to the high school in Goldendale. This coming Friday's District title game is slated to begin at 6 p.m.