Preparing for last night's non-league basketball game, 1B Sunnyside Christian knew the Cardinals would be bringing a very athletic crew into the Knights' gym. After all, Waitsburg/Prescott just three weeks ago won the WIAA 2B State football title. And, several of the Cardinals playing last night were on the team that took a 22-1 record into the 2B State basketball tournament last year.
Undeterred, the two-time defending 1B State basketball champion Knights clamped down on the visitors, racking up perhaps not the most glamorous win in a 46-36 victory.
"Not one of our prettiest wins, but we knew we were facing some very athletic kids and we got the job done," said Sunnyside Christian Coach Dean Wagenaar.
The mission, he explained, was to play under control and make the Cardinals work hard for their shots.
"I've got to say, I was pleased with our effort," Wagenaar added.
The match-up zone coverage employed by the Knights created a few fits for Waitsburg/Prescott. The Cardinals ended up shooting just 26 percent from the field (14-for-54).
Sunnyside Christian also outworked the Cardinals on the boards, outrebounding the visitors by a 33 to 22 margin. Big 6'7" Brandon Broersma led the way, scraping down a game-high 14 rebounds for the Knights. He also got help in scooping up the loose balls from teammates Jackson Haak and Drew Puterbaugh, who combined for 20 boards.
Offensively for Sunnyside Christian, the tandem of Broersma and Trevor Wagenaar carried the load. Broersma canned 17 points on 7-of-11 field goal shooting, which included a nifty 2-for-3 effort from behind the 3-point arc. Wagenaar, the team's scoring leader this year who's already committed to playing for the Dordt College men's basketball team in Iowa next season, dropped in a game-high 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor. He was successful on his one 3-point attempt, although most of his buckets came on baseline drives to the hoop.
The duo of Haak and Alex Brouwer each managed a five-point performance for the winners, although neither shot particularly well from the field or from the free throw line.
Sunnyside Christian appeared to have the game well in hand, leading by 14 heading into the final period. The Cardinals had other designs, though.
Waitsburg/Prescott, which also draws players from Jubilee Christian High School, opened the fourth quarter by making the first four buckets, the first a 3-pointer and the next three shots off the fingertips of captain Zach Bartlow. That drew the Cardinals to within 36-31.
A pair of Haak free throws, following two shots he missed from the floor, came with 3:59 showing on the clock. They were the first points the Knights could come up with in the final stanza, and jumped the home team back out ahead at 38-31.
A Broersma putback of a shot Haak missed on Sunnyside Christian's next possession gave the Knights even more breathing room, at 40-31.
Bartlow, who finished with a team-high 16 points for the Cardinals, countered with a 15-footer to cut the gap to 40-33. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't get anything else to drop the rest of the way, which allowed Sunnyside Christian to outscore the visitors 6-3 down the stretch for the final 46-36 score. The senior Wagenaar had four of those six closing points for the Knights.
Sunnyside Christian (5-4) will take a couple of weeks off before returning on Jan. 7 to take on Yakama Tribal in Toppenish in both teams' 1B league openers.