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Last year’s league MVP powers SHS to win

KENNEWICK – Last season’s Big Nine League player of the year, Jordan Rodriguez, led a spirited effort by the Sunnyside High School girls basketball team last night.

Rodriguez and the Lady Grizzlies knocked off a solid Kamiakin squad, on the Braves’ home court, 69-59.

A junior, Rodriguez canned half her shots from two-point range and dropped in 5-of-6 free throws. That translated into a game-high 21 points.

The 5’8” playmaker also battled Kamiakin’s taller girls in the paint, pulling down a team-leading 10 rebounds. Rodriguez, too, came away with six steals, thanks to Sunnyside’s game-long defensive press.

“Jordan had a double-double, a great game for us,” said Sunnyside Coach Rick Puente. “She was all over the place.”

With six players scoring early on, Sunnyside forged a 15-8 first-quarter lead on the Braves. Kamiakin never regained the lead, however “…they cut it close a couple of times,” said Puente. “But our girls dug in and got the job done.”

Specifically, the Lady Grizzlies kept Kamiakin at bay by wreaking havoc every time the Braves had the ball. Employing a pressing defense the entire way, Sunnyside managed to swipe the ball from the Braves 20 times total. “And we came up with numerous deflections,” Puente said of his club’s disruptive defensive tactics.

The two girls who kept Kamiakin within striking distance were the Wellsandt sisters. With drive after drive into the key, crashing the boards and capitalizing on putbacks, the two combined for 36 points.

The Braves also received a 12-point effort from Rachelle Ellison.

Besides the 21 points that Rodriguez canned for Sunny-side, Emilee Maldonado and Selena Rubalcava scored in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

As a team, the Lady Grizzlies made 26-of-55 two-point field goal attempts, and were 11-for-17 from the foul line. Sunnyside connected on just 2-of-13 from 3-point range.

Puente said he’s not concerned with the low shooting percentage from beyond the 3-point arc.

“We’re getting good looks from out there. The balls are hitting a lot of the rim, they’re just not falling.

“We might be rushing a few of those shots, but the three’s, they’re part of our offense. We encourage the girls to take those shots,” he said.

Overall, Puente said he’s pleased with what he’s seen on the court from the Lady Grizzlies.

“The girls are buying into the system, and into each other. It’s fun to be a part of it.

“It’s also great that we’re getting such fan support. The parents, the families of the players, they’re traveling to our away games. It’s very much appreciated,” he said.

The Sunnyside Lady Grizzlies (1-1, 4-1) are scheduled to travel to Eisenhower this coming Friday, then will host Moses Lake on Saturday.

The Chiefs feature a dynamic guard in sophomore Jesse Loera, whose older sister landed an NCAA Division 1 basketball scholarship a couple of years ago. Loera, said Puente, controls the pace of the play for Moses Lake and will be the player to stop.

“All we really can do is try and slow her down…play solid defense against her and try to make her uncomfortable,” he said.

Sunnyside 15 18 20 16 -69
Kamiakin 8 15 15 21 -59

Sunnyside – Alvarez 8, Bazan 4, Lua 2, Rubalcava 11, Maldonado 12, Mendoza 5, Rodriguez 21, Perez 6, Trevino 0

Kamiakin – Schauble 9, M. Wellsandt 19, Ellison 12, T. Wellsandt 17, Crandle 2

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