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Lady Knights win State tourney opener

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Sunnyside Christian sophomore Annie Brouwer tries to find room to dribble the ball along the baseline in Thursday morning's quarter-final game at the 1B State tourney in Spokane. Brouwer canned a game-high 17 points to go along with the three rebounds she snared and the two steals she collected in the win over the St. John-Endicott Eagles.

SPOKANE - The Sunnyside Christian Lady Knights are guaranteed at least fifth place honors in the State Hardwood Classic after defeating the St. John-Endicott Eagles, 52-37.

The Lady Knights got off to a slow start in their 1B State basketball tournament opener yesterday morning, but fortunately for them, the Eagles started even slower. Neither team scored in the first three minutes of the game, although both teams got looks at the basket.

"It was a new facility for us and we were getting used to the crowd," said Lady Knights Coach Al Smeenk. "But when we got started we really took off."

By the time all was said and done, it was sophomore Annie Brouwer who did the most damage against the Eagles. She dropped in a game-high 17 points, canning 7-of-12 from the field and hitting both her free throw attempts in the game.

Lady Knight Kara den Hoed broke the ice early on with an assist from Stormee Van Belle, after which Sunnyside Christian added another five points before the Eagles mustered up a single field goal.

But the Lady Knights hardly noticed and racked up another seven points before the Eagles could score again. By the end of the first quarter Sunnyside Christian had taken an 18-4 lead, shooting 58 percent from the field compared to the Eagles' meager 11 percent.

"The girls were fired up," said Smeenk.

For the first three quarters the Eagles couldn't seem to find the basket while more than half the Lady Knights' attempts dropped in.

The roles were reversed in the fourth quarter, however. The Lady Knights ended the third quarter up 47-25, having led by as much as 28 points in the third.

"Our defense slacked off in the fourth," said Smeenk. "Our girls saw the lead and relaxed. We didn't block out so well.

"The girls also got frustrated. It was a very physical game," he added.

The Lady Knights were outscored 12-5 in the final period. Sunnyside Christian only went 2-for-10 from the field while St. John-Endicott was 5-for-9 down the stretch.

"Their shots were falling in when earlier they weren't finding the basket," said Smeenk of the Eagles' efforts in the fourth quarter.

But the lead the Lady Knights had built up held. And Smeenk was pleased with the performance of his team.

"We had a superb first half," he said. "Our defense is what won it for us."

Sunnyside Christian had 23 defensive rebounds and 11 steals in the game. Leading the Lady Knights in total rebounds was Van Belle, with 12. Van Belle also racked up three steals and dished out seven assists.

Three Lady Knights, Van Belle, Brouwer and den Hoed played the entire game. Besides the 17 points Brouwer scored, den Hoed added an 11-point effort and Van Belle chipped in 7 points.

"We got some nice breaks," said Smeenk. "And we played hard."

The Lady Knights relied on all their players to score, and everyone stepped up their game. Micki Williams canned 3 points in the game, including a field goal right before the half that put Sunnyside Christian up 34-15.

Lady Knights Katelyn Banks and Rita Dalrymple each contributed 4 points to the score. Brittany Broersma dropped in 6 points and had a blocked shot.

The highlight of the game for Sunnyside Christian came early in the third quarter. With the score standing at 36-17, Dalrymple dropped in a field goal after a dish from den Hoed to start a nine-point run. After Brouwer blocked a three-point attempt by Eagle Sami Bailey, Van Belle snagged the rebound and dished it to Brouwer, who scored another bucket. Den Hoed stole the ball and nailed another shot. Van Belle was then fouled on a defensive rebound after a missed shot at the bucket by the Eagles' Emily Jones. Van Belle missed both from the charity stripe, but Dalrymple took the rebound on the second attempt and passed to den Hoed, who popped in a shot from treyland to give the Lady Knights their biggest lead in the game, 45-17.

The lead held, but Smeenk hopes his team can hold together better when his squad plays Pateros today, March 1, at 3:45 p.m. in one of the two semi-final games.

"Their game was before ours," said Smeenk. "We watched them. They are really good with three-pointers."

He said he knows Pateros has a strong team.

"We're just going to have to go out and do the best we can," he said.

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