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Two wins propel Lady Grizzlies into three-way tie for top spot in league

Sunnyside junior Tiana Perez starts a fastbreak for the Lady Grizzlies in last Saturday’s game against the visiting Eisenhower Cadets.

Sunnyside junior Tiana Perez starts a fastbreak for the Lady Grizzlies in last Saturday’s game against the visiting Eisenhower Cadets. Photo by Julia Hart.

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GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL

SHS Coach Rick Puente has more weapons at his disposal than a two-star general sending a full battalion into battle.

Well...at least it must have felt that way for the Wenatchee and Eisenhower girls basketball teams this past weekend.

Puente unloaded his clip, spraying a healthy round of starters with a continuous pattern of reserves at his opponents. The end result was a pair of runaway victories for the Lady Grizzlies – 67-48 and 59-26 decisions over Wenatchee and Ike, respectively.

The dual wins moved Sunnyside into a three-way tie for the top spot in the Columbia Basin Big Nine League standings. The Davis Pirates had the league lead, but a loss on Saturday to Moses Lake leaves those two clubs, along with Sunnyside, with identical 6-2 conference marks.

In shredding their two league opponents this past weekend, there was nary a Sunnyside player who didn’t contribute.

“We’ve got 10, 11 girls who show up to every practice, every game, all who want to play. They all want time on the floor,” said Puente. “We’re very balanced. Everyone on the team brings something to the table.

“At times it’s tough to get everyone enough playing time.

“But,” he chuckled, “it’s a nice problem to have.”

Sunnyside’s two games this past weekend were shining examples of the team concept that everyone has something to offer.

“The girls play very unselfish basketball,” said Puente. “It’s fun to watch.”

Sunnyside’s multi-pronged attack begins with junior Jordan Rodriguez. The Big Nine League player of the year as a sophomore, she’s again leading the team in the scoring column this season. The ‘Smooth Move’ point guard, who’s just as adept at playing the second guard position or can more than adequately fill in as a forward patrolling the paint, tossed in a game-high 14 points on Wenatchee’s home court last Friday. In the process, the dead-eye drilled all three of her attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. It was also Rodriguez who popped in a team-high seven points in Sunnyside’s 27-14 second-quarter scoring spurt that all but did in Wenatchee.

The court-savvy floor general also lit up the scoreboard for 9 points Saturday night in the Lady Grizzlies’ dominating 59-26 win over visiting Eisenhower.

Sunnyside also looks heavily to the lone senior on the team, Vanessa Alvarez. Following Friday’s game in which she used her speed to come up with four steals, which was instrumental in the Lady Grizzlies forcing Wenatchee into committing 18 turnovers, Alvarez went off for a game-high 11 points on Saturday against Ike.

“A lot of Vanessa’s baskets came from out in the open court,” said Puente, explaining she’s often the first down the floor when a turnover occurs. “She’s like a bullet out there,” he said.

The meat and potatoes of Sunnyside’s line-up is comprised of Natalia Bazan, Selena Rubalcava and Tiana Perez…all juniors. The trio combined for 26 points Friday on the Panthers’ home floor, then tallied another 20 at home against the Cadets the following night.

Perez, the tallest player at 5-10 on what everyone will concede is the shortest team this year in the Big Nine, also came away with four steals at Wenatchee. She had the same number of swipes against Ike on Saturday, and crashed the boards for four rebounds that night, as well.

In setting their sights on their Big Nine foes this season, the Lady Grizzlies have also turned to a pair of newcomers. The two freshmen – Emilee Maldonado and Jessica Mendoza - are both settling into the ranks and exceeding expectations.

Maldonado, the heir-apparent to running the point for the Lady Grizzlies, is the second leading scorer on the team. Standing just a hair over five feet tall, the athletic hoopster uses twisting, spinning moves to penetrate the lane, or waits patiently for the ball to be swung out to her on the perimeter, from where she’s adept at launching bombs. This past weekend, Maldonado pumped in 12 points at Wenatchee and added a 7-point effort against Ike. She also excelled on the defensive end of the court Saturday, forcing the Cadets into coughing up the ball five times.

Mendoza, at 5-7 and with a nose for finding the ball, tallied a total of 10 points in the two games this past weekend. More importantly, though, the underclassman was Sunnyside’s leading rebounder both nights, snaring three rebounds at Wenatchee and another five on Saturday. She also led the Lady Grizzlies defensively in both games, totaling six steals in each of the two games.

“Jessica is very active,” said Puente. “She has a knack for getting to the ball.”

Deep on Sunnyside’s bench, but not often overlooked, is Jazel Trevino. From high in the bleachers she looks to be the size of a half-used pencil – with a chewed off eraser. But this ‘Mighty Mite’ junior is called upon frequently to spell the starting ball handlers. This past weekend was no exception. Trevino saw valuable minutes on the floor, pushing the ball up-court time and again while chipping in 5 points at Wenatchee and another 4 at home against the Cadets.

Looking ahead to this coming week, Sunnyside takes on co-league leader Moses Lake on Friday, on the Chiefs’ home floor. The Lady Grizzlies won the first match-up between the two clubs back in mid-December by an 83-71 score.

“That was at our place,” said Puente. “We know we’re going to have a battle on our hands this Friday.

“As soon as last Saturday’s game was over against Eisenhower, the girls were already talking about the work we’re going to have to do to get ready for Moses Lake.”

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