MONTESANO - The Sunnyside Christian boys used a smothering defense to punch their ticket to the Regional phase of the State 1B hoop tourney.
The Knights prevailed for a 38-30 win over Three Rivers Christian of Kelso during a Sub-Regional contest at Montesano last Saturday.
Despite shooting just 2-of-19 from 3-point range, Sunnyside Christian advanced in the loser-out game thanks to defensive pressure on the Eagles' top two scorers.
Josh Caddel, for example, is Three Rivers' leading scorer but was held to just seven points on 3-of-17 shooting thanks to a defensive blanket by Sunnyside Christian's Brant Bosma.
"He is the straw that stirs the drink for them and Brant made him work for every shot," Coach Brian Bosma said. "Stopping Caddel was the key to the whole game."
Seth Carns is another scoring threat for the Eagles, and he was held scoreless Saturday. "Carns has had several games for them with over 15 points."
Three Rivers also brought defensive pressure, though, and held Sunnyside Christian sharpshooter Alex Brouwer to just two points.
The Knights' big man, Brandon Broersma, managed to score 10 points Saturday, but had to battle for every tally. "The game was allowed to be physical and inside scores were very hard to come by," said Bosma. "I've never seen a game with so many contested shots."
With the top scorers for both teams struggling, it came down to which team had the deeper line-up.
On that score, Sunnyside Christian came out on top as reserve Joel Martin captured game-high scoring honors.
Martin tallied 11 points for the game, and helped the Knights to a 16-12 lead at the half and a 29-21 advantage after three quarters. His most important scoring came in the fourth quarter on swishing two free throws after the Eagles cut the lead to just five points.
"He made 6-of-7 free throws and hit some big ones down the stretch," Bosma said of Martin.
Other Knights also chipped in to keep Three Rivers at bay, such as Drew Puterbaugh, who helped Sunnyside Christian open an eight-point lead in the third quarter when he drove for back-to-back layups for his only points of the game. "That was definitely a spark when he did that," Bosma said. "It was a pleasant surprise."
The bottom line, Bosma says, is that Sunnyside Christian had more players capable of scoring.
Danny Hull paced Three Rivers with 10 points.
Bosma said he was pleased with his team's overall performance, but noted the Knights have to clean up some rebounding woes as they gave up 12 offensive boards to the Eagles on Saturday. "They put up 23 threes and that was a lot of long rebounds," the coach said. "We're taller, but they were quicker."
Sunnyside Christian, 21-2, has little to time to celebrate the win as tonight, Monday, they open Regional play at Goldendale against Columbia Adventist Academy from Battleground.
The contest is not a loser-out affair, but strictly for seeding purposes. A win would give the Knights a No. 2 seeding and a Regional game Saturday at Timberline High School in Lacey. A loss tonight would hand the Knights a No. 3 seeding and a Saturday contest against Moses Lake Christian at Eastmont.
Sunnyside Christian, despite its lofty record, has no shot at a No. 1 seed.
Since the Knights advance with a win or loss today, Bosma said he'll play his cards close. "Let's just say we're not going to pull out all the stops tonight"