After using a 21-7 fourth quarter run this past Friday to thump host Southridge 62-43, the Sunnyside Grizzly boys basketball team continued its winning ways with a last-second 62-61 win over visiting Kennewick.
The two games were the 3A CBBN league openers for Sunnyside.
Friday's game was actually nip and tuck for the first three quarters, with the score knotted at 36-36 at the half and Sunnyside nursing a five-point lead heading into the fourth frame.
Sunnyside's pressure defense paid dividends in the final quarter, though, as the Grizzlies negated the Suns' height advantage by blocking out in the paint and limiting the hosts to a single shot attempt.
"They posed some problems for us because they have a couple of 6-6 guys and our main goal was to block out and do a good job of rebounding," said Assistant Coach Ruben Fernandez.
The result is that Sunnyside outboarded the taller Suns 27 to 24, with Greg Spini and Eduardo Salmeron collecting six rebounds each for the Grizzlies.
Fernandez also praised the defensive play of Spini and Eric Amaro in holding one of those 6-6 players, Brad Scott, to just three points. Fernandez said the Southridge post player usually scores 14 or 15 points a game.
Salmeron and Brandon Daley also earned kudos from the coach for their defense of Southridge's 20-point-a-game, all-league guard Matt Mendenhall, who was held to 14 points, just three of them in the second half.
Salmeron also swiped two steals to help lead the Sunnyside defense.
On offense, the Grizzly attack was sparked by Israel Manzo, who knocked down 20 points. Teammate Cody Fernandez drilled a couple of three pointers on the way to a 10-point scoring night, and Trey Serl posted double figures with 11 points for Sunnyside.
Spini and Amaro had nine and eight points, respectively.
Serl and Daley dished out four and three assists, respectively.
"Any time we can get one on the road we're pretty happy with that," Fernandez said. "For us the Tri-Cities isn't the easiest place to pick up a win."
The friendly confines of the Grizzly home gym wasn't an easy place to earn a W either, as it turns out.
The back-and-forth tilt with highly touted Kennewick saw Sunnyside clinging to a 28-25 lead at the half. The Lions connected on three treys in the third quarter, though, to go up 47-44 going into the final eight minutes.
"We had to pick our poison with them. They're tall and athletic and give us problems," Fernandez said of tangling with the Lions. He said if Sunnyside stayed back in a zone the Lions knocked down treys, but if the Grizzlies came out in a man-to-man defense then Kennewick was able to have a rebounding advantage.
With 14 seconds left in the game Sunnyside trailed 61-60, when Manzo found Spini in the paint for a lay-up to score what proved to be the winning points.
As on Friday night, Sunnyside's press ended up being a difference maker in creating turnovers and sparking the Grizzly offense late.
"One of the things we pride ourselves in is conditioning," Fernandez said. "We have a pattern going where we are able to shut down teams late in the game. The kids seem to be outworking teams in the second half."
Manzo, in particular, got it going in the second half by scoring 16 of his game-high 19 points after the break.
Manzo also dished out seven assists, hauled down seven rebounds and tallied four steals to pace the Grizzlies.
Amaro tallied 15 points, while Spini and Serl scored seven and six points, respectively. Daley recorded five ponts and Spini blocked two shots.
Also helping Sunnyside on the boards were Jessie Leija and Salmeron, with four rebounds each.
Bryce Leavitt led Kennewick with 16 points. Grizzly defenders held the Lions' Luiz Santiago scoreless one night after he posted 24 points against Pasco.
"Our kids have been right into the challenge when they know there's a certain ballplayer we need to stop," said Fernandez.
The coach also praised a full and supportive home crowd in the Grizzly stands for helping his team to victory.
"It was a great victory for us in front of a really nice crowd," Fernandez said. "The kids were pumped up seeing all the people there."
Sunnyside (2-0, 6-1) now has a week off before a non-league game at East Valley next Wednesday, Dec. 28.