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Christian girls easily advance to 1B State tourney semi-finals

SPOKANE - "Ouch, that had to leave a mark," one Sunnyside Christian fan was heard saying after the Lady Knights laid a 73-11 thumping on the Mary M. Knight Owls Thursday morning.

That the score was so lopsided didn't surprise a lot of people, after all the Sunnyside Christian girls basketball team has won just as impressively against several clubs this season.

What surprised some about the 62-point margin of victory, though, was that it came in the 1B State tournament quarter-finals. After the drubbing many left the Spokane Arena scratching their heads, wondering how the Owls had advanced to the "Final Eight."

"Honestly, I thought they (Mary M. Knight) would be more competitive," Sunnyside Christian Coach Al Smeenk said following yesterday's State tourney opener.

The Owls, it turned out, brought a sub-.500 record into the tourney. They also brought a very inexperienced crew, as the team from the Aberdeen area features four eighth graders and four freshmen.

Mary M. Knight quickly learned it was in over its head, as Sunnyside Christian raced out to a 26-2 first-quarter lead.

"We started out pressing them," said Smeenk. The Lady Knights continued applying the full-court defensive pressure until the second period got underway, which resulted in numerous turnovers. All told, Mary M. Knight coughed up the ball 39 times.

Although Smeenk called off the dogs at the end of the opening period, Sunnyside Christian went on to outscore the Owls by a 21-2 margin in the second quarter.

Of the 12 girls on the SCHS roster, all but two scored against the Owls. Three of the Lady Knights reached double figures...senior Analisa VanOostrum and sophomores Kara den Hoed and Marisa Broersma.

VanOostrum, one of only two seniors playing for Sunnyside Christian and this year's MVP of the Greater Columbia 1B League, tossed in a game-high 19 points. That offensive explosion came despite VanOostrum sitting on the bench for two-thirds of the game. She nailed 4-of-6 shots from behind the 3-point arc, was 2-for-2 on drives to the hoop and made 3-of-4 from the free throw line.

Both, den Hoed and Broersma connected for 13 points in the Lady Knights' victory. Broersma was 6-for-10 from the field and den Hoed made 4-of-7 field goal attempts while going 5-for-5 from the foul line.

Freshman Stormee Van Belle also excelled on the offensive end of the court for Sunnyside Christian, getting 4-of-6 shots from inside the paint to fall through the hoop.

The one negative for the Lady Knights that came out of yesterday's blowout was the lack of playing time for the starters. None of Sunnyside Christian's players saw more than 12 minutes on the floor, as Smeenk went to his bench early and often in an effort to not run up the score against the Owls. It would have been nice, he said, if his core group could have gotten more time on the court, especially with the task that faces the starters today.

Sunnyside Christian (22-3) will take on the two-time defending State champion Colton Wildcats (24-1) in a semi-final match-up, slated for 3:45 p.m. this afternoon (Friday).

"It's going to be a challenge," Smeenk said yesterday in looking ahead to Friday's semi-final tilt. "Colton will run us.

"We know we'll be looking at a full-court press from them, and going the other way, on offense, they like to run."

One of the keys, said Smeenk, will be keeping fresh legs on the court, which means looking to his reserves for productivity.

"Colton is a great team. We'll just give them our best shot," he added.

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