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Knights claim thriller, advance to semi-final tilt

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Steven Broersma of Sunnyside Christian, who had a team-high 15 points in Thursday's quarter-final game against Almira/Coulee-Hartline, eyes the basket last night.

YAKIMA - What's the chances of rallying from a 19-point deficit with just over a quarter and a half remaining in a game?

Pretty good, if you're the Sunnyside Christian High School Knights!

Playing a quarter-final contest against the Almira/Coulee-Hartline Warriors last night at the 1B State Boys Basketball Tournament in the Yakima Valley SunDome, Sunnyside Christian did exactly that. Somehow, some way, the Knights pulled their act together down the stretch and eked out a thrilling 55-53 victory.

The win advances Sunnyside Christian, ranked as the third best 1B team in the state heading into the Big Dance and now riding a 16-game winning streak, into tonight's 6 p.m. semi-final tilt against the No. 2 ranked Wellpinit Redskins.

That the Knights are one win away from playing for the State championship, well, it's almost inconceivable considering the hole they dug for themselves Thursday evening against Almira/Coulee-Hartline.

It wasn't all bad last night for the Knights. Besides the late-game rally, Sunnyside Christian jumped on the Warriors quickly, building a 13-5 first-quarter lead. The early momentum established by the Knights was the result of a true team effort. Junior Steven Bosma hit two clean shots from the field in that opening period, Tim DeVries scored on a putback, 6'5" Kevin DeJong and 6'6" Steven Broersma each connected on an up-close bunny, and the team's primary long-range bomber, sophomore Trevor Wagenaar, awoke from the slumber he was in the night before and canned one from behind the 3-point arc.

Then, things took a turn for the worse. The Knights couldn't buy a bucket come the second quarter. That's not exactly true. Sunnyside Christian did get another offensive putback from DeVries, the lone senior on the team, and Broersma, the team's hero in the State tourney opener on Wednesday with a game-high 22 points, dropped in a shot from the paint.

But that was it for Sunnyside Christian, as the Knights went 0-for-9 on the rest of their second-quarter field goal attempts and missed all three of their shots from free throw line.

Almira/Coulee-Hartline, on the other hand, couldn't hardly miss in the second period. The Warriors notched 25 points in the quarter to just the 4 points Sunnyside Christian had in taking an overwhelming 30-17 lead into the locker room at halftime. The second-quarter heroes for the Warriors were the duo of sophomore Derek Isaak and junior Cody Jess, who together knocked down 23 of those 25 points.

"We got frustrated offensively in the second quarter," said SCHS Coach Dean Wagenaar. "Our guards tried to do too much and ended up getting stripped.

"That lead to about eight breakaways for ACH," he said.

Things turned really bleak for Sunnyside Christian when the Warriors opened the second half with an 8-2 run, putting the Knights in a 38-19 hole.

While many teams might have thrown in the towel at that point, Sunnyside Christian's players opted to dig deep within themselves.

The turn-around, predicated on a switch to a 2-2-1 three-quarter court defensive trap, started when Wagenaar buried a long-range bomb, his second trey of the game, with 5:01 showing on the clock in the third quarter. A couple of defensive stops later, DeJong drilled two shots from the charity stripe to pull the Knights to within 38-24.

Sunnyside Christian then forced a pair of back-to-back turnovers, which resulted in a 3-point field goal off the fingertips of Ryker Van Belle and Bosma hitting 1-of-2 from the foul line to get the Knights within 38-28.

That short 9-0 run in the span of two minutes grew by leaps and bounds when the Knights ran off seven more straight points...the handiwork of a DeJong putback, a third Wagenaar bomb from 3-point land and two more free throws by Bosma.

At that point, with 1:26 still to play in the third period, Sunnyside Christian had clawed its way back to within 38-35.

Almira/Coulee-Hartline stopped the bleeding, though, when the Warriors scored the final seven points of the period to take a 45-35 lead into the final eight-minute stanza.

That's when Sunnyside Christian looked to their two big juniors, the 6'5" DeJong and the 6'6" Broersma. Together, the two big men pumped in 17 points down the stretch, with the sophomore Wagenaar's fourth 3-pointer of the game for good measure, to outscore the Warriors 20-8 in the last quarter.

"Because we had Trevor (Wagenaar) hitting those shots from 3-range, and the long 3-pointer by Van Belle, ACH had to defend the perimeter," said SCHS's coach. "That left the inside open for DeJong and Broersma, and they both came through."

Sunnyside Christian was leading the Warriors by two with 16 seconds left in the game, but eight ticks later Wagenaar was whistled for a foul against freshman Thunder Wellhausen. The underclassman cooly delivered both shots from the charity stripe to knot the contest at 53-all.

With eight seconds to go, Sunnyside Christian called for a timeout. Setting up the potential game-winner, Van Belle inbounded the ball to Bosma near the half-court line, who quickly raced on a head-long drive towards the lane. With DeJong covered at the high post, and Wagenaar fronted by Warrior players far out on the right wing, Bosma located the second of Sunnyside Christian's twin towers down near the base line. He flipped the ball up over the defenders to Broersma. The 6'6" center, with time expiring, then brought the Knight faithful to their feet when he shoveled in a lay-up to give Sunnyside Christian the 55-53 win.

"It was like (Broersma) was an apparition who appeared out of the fog," said the head coach Wagenaar in explaining how Bosma spotted the open big man.

Isaak ended up with a game-high 23 points last night for Almira/Coulee-Hartline on 10-of-22 field goal shooting, which included a 3-for-12 effort from 3-point land. Jess added a 19-point performance in the losing cause for the Warriors.

But the two standout offensive performances were more than offset by the trio of Broersma, DeJong and Wagenaar, who together combined for 41 points. The Knights also got a nifty 7-point effort from Bosma, with DeVries and Van Belle closing out the scoring for Sunnyside Christian with 4 and 3 points, respectively.

DeJong had the top effort for the night on the boards, collecting a game-high 14 rebounds to lead Sunnyside Christian to a 30 to a 24 advantage in caroms collected.

"Kevin (DeJong), besides his 14 points and 14 rebounds, really was the guy last night who got us going with his inspirational play," said Wagenaar.

In looking ahead to tonight's semi-final contest against the Wellpinit Redskins, who knocked off No. 1 ranked Rosalia yesterday, Wagenaar said the 6 p.m. showdown will hinge on stopping Cody Flett.

A wing player who's adept at handling the ball and shooting from long range, Flett is the Redskins' leader.

"We're going to have to extend our zone to stop him, as well as a couple of other players they have who can hit from outside," said Wagenaar.

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