GOLDENDALE - "This is frosting on the cake," Sunnyside Christian Coach Al Smeenk said of his team's return trip to the 1B State girls basketball tournament this week.
Smeenk's Lady Knights vanquished the Bickleton Lady Pirates in last Friday's District tourney championship tilt, 63-18. Unfortunately for Bickleton, this year the Greater Columbia 1B League District competition only allowed one team to move on.
Sunnyside Christian will open the 1B State tourney this coming Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. in the Yakima Valley SunDome against the same Mary M. Knight Owls club the team met in its opener at State last year. The Lady Knights won that contest against the Owls in 2008 by a dominating 59-28 score.
Mary M. Knight, like Sunnyside Christian, is a private school. The Owls, whose school is in Matlock, play in the state's southwest division, and aren't expected to pose any more problems for the Lady Knights than they did last year at State.
"We know a little about them this year, but not much," said Smeenk, indicating the scouting report doesn't show the Owls to be extremely quick, or tall.
Mary M. Knight's post player, 5'8" Alicea Scott, appears to be the one Owl that Sunnyside Christian will have to stop. "We'll put Kelly (Newhouse) on her," said Smeenk. "Kelly's one of our top defensive players."
Smeenk figures to open Wednesday's game with a full-court press against the Owls. "Just to get our girls' blood flowing," he said. "After that we'll probably go to a man defense."
If Sunnyside Christian is to finish higher than sixth at State, as the team did last year, the Lady Knights will probably need to get more out of their leading scorer, senior Melanie Van Wingerden, than they did last Friday against Bickleton.
Van Wingerden suffered 1-for-7 field goal shooting in the first half against the Lady Pirates enroute to dropping in only four points.
Besides getting herself into foul trouble last Friday, Van Wingerden had a head of steam going that was tough to contain. "She was playing a bit too aggressive at times," admitted Smeenk. "Some of her shots went too hard to the rim."
The rest of the Lady Knights picked up the slack, however. Junior Hilari Bosma paced Sunnyside Christian to the 63-18 victory by pumping in a game-high 13 points. Teammates Joleen Van Wingerden and Renee Dalrymple each added 10-point efforts, with Newhouse canning nine points and Makaela Duim and Julie Long chipping in six apiece.
The scoring outburst by the Lady Knights powered them to a 17-2 first quarter advantage over Bickleton, which led to a 37-7 halftime lead.
Sunnyside Christian (17-5) also outboarded the Lady Pirates last Friday by a 40 to 21 margin. Melanie Van Wingerden led the rebounding charge by snaring eight caroms, with Dalrymple, the younger Van Wingerden and Newhouse each coming away with six loose balls.
Scoring-wise for Bickleton (13-9), the Lady Pirates only made three field goals all game. All three baskets were recorded by Star Kibby, who also sank two free throws to give her a team-high eight points on the night. Bickleton's top scorer this season, Katelynn Clinton, was held to seven points on 7-of-11 free throw shooting.