One thing is certain about this year's young and inexperienced Sunnyside Christian girls basketball team...the Lady Knights know how to clamp down on the opposing players.
What the Lady Knights haven't learned yet, however, is how to consistently get the ball to drop through the hoop.
Overcoming less than spectacular 31 percent field goal shooting with some gutsy defensive play, Sunnyside Christian managed to pick up two more victories this past weekend to elevate its record to 4-2. Last Friday night, the Lady Knights pulled away from a tight two-point lead in the late going to clip the Liberty Christian Patriots by a 48-39 score. Saturday, Sunnyside Christian limited Moses Lake Christian to single-digit scoring in all four quarters enroute to posting a less-than-pretty 38-23 win.
No doubt about it, says Sunnyside Christian Coach Al Smeenk, "...we're struggling when it comes to scoring.
"I can't say we're not taking good shots. A lot of our attempts are from inside the paint. The ball just isn't falling," Smeenk said.
Friday in Richland against the 2B Patriots, the squad Sunnyside Christian defeated 49-25 in both clubs' season opener back on Dec. 3, the Lady Knights connected on 15-of-41 shots from 2-point territory. From behind the 3-point arc, the Lady Knights were 2-of-8.
Sunnyside Christian fared better from the free throw line, going 12-for-18.
The lone Lady Knight to hit double figures in the scoring column was senior Analisa Van Oostrum. She pushed in a game-high 13 points, one of her baskets a long-range 3-pointer. Teammate Marisa Broersma, a 5'11" sophomore, appeared ready to have a blowout performance, canning nine points in the opening half to go along with her game-high 11 rebounds. She couldn't get the ball to tickle the net after intermission, though.
Even with those so-so shooting numbers, Smeenk said his girls should have been able to pull away from the Patriots much quicker than they did. But the 23 turnovers committed by the Lady Knights allowed Liberty Christian to stay in the game until the very end.
"That's 23 fewer chances we had of putting up a shot," he said. "We want to take at least 60 shots each game. We're giving up too many scoring opportunities with all the turnovers. Really, we're just not valuing the ball."
Coughing up the ball to the opposing team continued on Saturday at 1B Moses Lake Christian. In all, the Lady Knights committed 24 turnovers.
The poor shooting on the part of Sunnyside Christian continued, as well. The Lady Knights made just 28 percent of their field goal attempts, and only went 5-for-12 from the foul line. The team's leading scorer, senior Janelle DeGroot, finished with eight points, followed by Van Oostrum with seven.
Sunnyside Christian was able to dominate the Moses Lake team, however, with some very strong defensive play. The Lady Knights, playing straight man defense from start to end, didn't allow the host team to score more than five points in any of the first three quarters. Moses Lake Christian had a nine-point tally in the final period to account for the final 38-23 score.
Smeenk said what isn't in question is the dedication and effort of his players.
"They put everything they've got into it," he said. "Defensively, we got a couple of good efforts this past weekend. The girls have already shown they have a lot of heart."
Sunnyside Christian will be looking for two more non-league wins this week. Tuesday, the Lady Knights are at home against LaSalle, then take to the road on Wednesday with a trip to Touchet.