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Sunnyside one game out of Big Nine League lead

Alvarez heating up as season wears on

GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL

COLUMBIA BASIN BIG NINE LEAGUE

W L

Moses Lake 8 2

Davis 7 3

Sunnyside 7 3

Wenatchee 6 4

Eisenhower 2 8

Eastmont 0 10

The thing about Sunnyside this season, on any given night each of the girls who suits up is capable of leading the offensive charge.

Lately, it’s been the one and only senior on the team – Vanessa Alvarez – who’s been front and center for the Lady Grizzly basketball team.

The speedster poured in team highs of 20 and 13 points, respectively, against Moses Lake and Eastmont this past weekend. That gives Alvarez team-high scoring honors in four of the last five games Sunnyside has played.

“Vanessa had a great weekend,” said Sunnyside Coach Rick Puente. “She’s been working hard and it’s really showing.”

Following a hard-to-swallow 67-58 loss to Big Nine League leader Moses Lake last Friday, the Lady Grizzlies returned to the comfortable confines of their own gym the following night and shredded the Eastmont Wildcats, 64-37.

Sunnyside broke out to a 24-9 lead on the visiting ‘Cats. After the second quarter, in which Puente went to his bench often, the Lady Grizzlies socked the game away with an 18-4 run in the third period.

Five Sunnyside players popped in nine or more points in the win over Eastmont. Alvarez led all scorers in the game with 13 points. Freshman Emilee Maldonado was close on her teammate’s heels with a 12-point performance, with junior Tiana Perez adding an 11-point effort. Juniors Natalia Bazan and Jordan Rodriguez canned 9 apiece for the winners.

No Eastmont player scored more than eight points.

In improving their Big Nine League record to 7-3 last Saturday, second best only to Moses Lake (8-2), the Lady Grizzlies shot at a 58 percent clip from 2-point range (23-for-40). Although off from behind the 3-point arc, going just 1-for-10, Sunnyside made up for the bombs that were off target by dropping in 15-of-22 free throw attempts.

Away from the basket, it was the 5’8” Alvarez and 5’10” Perez who kept the momentum in Sunnyside’s favor. Two of the tallest players on an otherwise short roster, the two combined for nine steals, which led to Eastmont coughing up the ball 22 times.

Perez also led a balanced effort for the Lady Grizzlies in scooping up loose balls from the glass, collecting three rebounds.

“Tiana was a real presence on the floor against Eastmont,” said Puente. “She played an excellent interior game.”

Realizing the winless Wildcats weren’t going to pose much of a challenge for his club, Puente said Saturday’s goals for the Lady Grizzlies included working on creating good ball movement and making an extra pass each time down the floor.

“The girls executed our game plan,” he said, noting he was also pleased with the unselfish play of all his players. “When we had the ball, everyone – the entire team – was working to find the open man. It was very, very unselfish play on the part of everyone.”

On the bus trip to Moses Lake last Friday, Sunnyside was knotted in a three-way tie with the Chiefs and the Davis Pirates for the top spot in the conference standings. But with the Chiefs winning both of their games last weekend, and Sunnyside and Davis each splitting its two league contests, Moses Lake now enjoys a one-game lead on both the Lady Grizzlies and Pirates.

The first meeting this season between Sunnyside and Moses Lake, back in mid-December, it went the Lady Grizzlies’ way by a score of 83-71. Last Friday, though, the Chiefs took advantage of an extremely tightly called game, getting to the foul line 33 times compared to just eight trips to the free throw stripe for Sunnyside.

“We didn’t adapt to the way the officials were calling the game,” said Puente.

Moses Lake ended up sinking 23 of their 33 foul shots, while the Lady Grizzlies went 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.

“That’s a 15-point swing. Moses Lake won the game from the free throw line,” he said.

From the field, Sunnyside outscored the host Chiefs by a margin of 50-44.

The Lady Grizzlies were powered by Alvarez’s 9-for-16 field goal performance. In sharing game-high scoring honors with Moses Lake’s McKenna Walker, Alvarez tallied her 20 points from all areas of the court.

“Vanessa was running the court well, most of the times out front, and was attacking the rim,” Puente said. “She went inside and battled Moses Lake’s big girls, and she really showed off that knack she has for that baseline jumper of hers.

“It’s kind of like the expression that one guy on ESPN says, slicing and dicing. That’s what Vanessa was doing at Moses Lake…slicing and dicing,” said Puente.

Also showing her versatility last Friday was the 5’8” Rodriguez, the reigning Big Nine League player of the year. She went off for 8 points, and led the Lady Grizzlies in rebounding by gathering in eight loose balls.

The 5’5” Selena Rubalcava canned 8 points in the losing effort, as well, sinking two shots from beyond the 3-point arc in the process. Also coming through with two 3-pointers apiece for Sunnyside were the 5’2” Maldonado and 5’0” Jazel Trevino.

Sunnyside has a pair of critical games scheduled for this coming Friday and Saturday – both at home.The opening tilt this weekend will be the final meeting with Davis. The Pirates have prevailed in the two earlier match-ups, by margins of 11 and 2 points.

Saturday’s game will be against Wenatchee, which is sitting just a game back of both Sunnyside and Davis. Puente said the Panthers, despite having already fallen twice to Sunnyside this season, can’t be overlooked.

“Wenatchee is very capable,” he said, noting it was the Panthers who dealt Davis a loss this past Saturday. “Wenatchee can knock off anyone on any night.

“The league title, it’s still up for grabs,” said Puente. “We have some key match-ups ahead of us still.”

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