YAKIMA - With the exception of Steven Broersma, the Sunnyside Christian Knights played a nifty game of hide-and-seek with their fans last night.
For the first 26 minutes of the 32-minute game in the opening round at the 1B State boys basketball tournament, the 6'6" Broersma was about the only player the Sunnyside Christian faithful could clearly identify on the Yakima Valley SunDome court.
Down the stretch, however, Broersma's teammates resurfaced and the Knights' supporters had little difficulty in recognizing the players that had been instrumental in Sunnyside Christian piecing together a 14-game win streak that earned the Greater Columbia 1B League champs a spot in this year's State tourney.
When all was said and done Wednesday evening, the Knights walked away with a nail-biting 46-37 victory over the Pateros Billygoats. The opening round win advances Sunnyside Christian into tonight's 9 p.m. quarter-final game against Almira/Coulee-Hartline, 69-40 winners yesterday against the state's No. 5 ranked Neah Bay Red Devils.
Early on last night against Pateros, it was clearly Broersma that carried his teammates on his back. He dumped in 13 of Sunnyside Christian's 22 first-half points, which allowed the Knights to head into intermission clinging to a seven-point lead.
Averaging nearly 18 points a game this season for Sunnyside Christian, Broersma didn't let up when the two teams retook the court in the second half. The 6'6" big man popped in another six points in the third quarter while the rest of his team could only account for a single free throw in that period.
All the while the Billygoats, who had a not-so-shabby 19-3 record heading into State, continued chipping away at Sunnyside Christian. Behind senior Abram Wilson's 10 points through the first three periods and another eight by the diminutive, 5'6" sophomore point guard Rylan Easter, Pateros got to within six points of the Knights by the time the third quarter buzzer sounded.
An opening trey off the fingertips of the Billgoats' other sophomore guard, 5'8" Blayne Harvey, on the first possession of the fourth quarter suddenly drew Pateros to within 29-26.
Broersma countered by sandwiching a free throw and a turnaround jumper in the lane around a Pateros two-point tip-in by junior Paul Myrick to extend the Knights' lead to 32-28. But for Broersma, who finished with a game-high 22 points, those would be his last buckets of the game.
Tim DeVries, the lone senior for Sunnyside Christian, came up big for the Knights on the ensuing Pateros possession when he stripped the ball from the point guard Easter, driving the length of the court for a lay-in to put his club up 34-28.
The Billygoats, though, then went on a 9-2 run to grab the lead at 37-36.
With two and a half minutes remaining, it was then that Sunnyside Christian fans began seeing the play from their team to which they had grown accustomed this season. All of a sudden, the early game turnovers committed by the Knights disappeared, as did the missed free throws.
Namely, it was 5'11" Steven Bosma that led the come-from-behind charge. The junior canned eight of the Knights' final 10 points of the game, all while he and his teammates worked together defensively to keep the Billygoats from scoring the rest of the way.
Bosma finished with 9 points for the game. He also had a club-high four steals while collecting two assists and four rebounds.
The late game turn-around can be credited to a gamble the SCHS coaching staff took in the final two minutes, when they switched the defensive alignment to a 2-2-1 half-court trap.
"We took a risk," admitted head coach Dean Wagenaar.
The gamble paid dividends, though, as the Knights forced several turnovers that led to breakaways, primarily the two that Bosma was the beneficiary of.
The risk in employing the half-court trap, said Wagenaar, is that if the steals hadn't come, Pateros would have been ripe to have made either easy drives to the hoop or stop and pop for clean two-point looks.
The way it turned out, said Wagenaar, it "...changed the momentum of the game."
The gutsy, defensive play by the Knights down the stretch, he added, was a true team effort. "Some of the individual numbers don't show it, but it's the intangibles that win a lot of games."
Bottom line, Wagenaar said, "Pateros was a tough first-round match for us last night. But the kids came through."
Tonight's game against the Almira/Coulee Hartline Warriors will be a stern test for Sunnyside Christian. The Warriors love shooting from the perimeter, having gone 9-for-21 from treyland last night against Neah Bay.
"We're going to have to put a body on their outside shooters, keep a hand in their face," said Wagenaar.
"ACH also likes to penetrate, so our guys inside are going to have to shut that down.
"For us, besides playing good defense, we're going to have to be more consistent than we were last night with our shooting from outside.
"Our goal tonight...it's simple, just advance. That's what it's about when you're at State."