Photo by John Fannin.
Lady Knight Annie Brouwer breaks away with the ball up court during Sunnyside Christian’s State sectional game against the Tekoa-Oakesdale Nighthawks last Friday night.
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YAKIMA – The Lady Knights suffered their first loss of the season last Friday. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Playing at Eisenhower High School in a 1B State Sectional game, Sunnyside Christian fell to the Tekoa-Oakesdale Nighthawks, 50-44. The Nighthawks move on to the State tourney. Sunnyside Christian, at 23-1, saw its season come to a close.
Sunnyside Christian, State tourney runners-up last season, was riding a 23-game winning streak coming into the game against the Nighthawks, but the team couldn’t seem to find its groove.
“We just didn’t put the ball through the hoop,” said Lady Knights Coach Al Smeenk. “We had our chances. We shot 10 more times than the other team. We just didn’t put it in there.”
The game was close throughout with the lead changing 14 times. The Lady Knights had a fragile one-point lead after the first quarter, 9-8, and were only down by two points at the half. The teams were tied 32-all after three quarters.
“Even with 40 seconds to go, it was a three-point ballgame and we had the ball,” said Smeenk. “We lost right at the end.”
Smeenk did note that his team missed a few easy shots in the early going that would have helped later in the game. He said those misses came back to haunt the Lady Knights as they wound up the game.
“We had a five-point lead halfway through the third quarter,” he said. “But they outrebounded us and just outplayed us.”
The Nighthawks had 19 second-chance points compared to the Lady Knights’ six points. Tekoa-Oakesdale also was able to convert on turnovers, making 15 points to Sunnyside Christian’s six-point effort off Nighthawk miscues.
Smeenk said his team was prepared, but the Nighthawks provided some surprises.
“They did a few things differently than they’ve done in previous games,” he said. “They had a 1-3-1 defense, which we hadn’t seen before. We’d prepared for it, but not enough. They had girls in the middle with a big enough wingspan to make passes difficult.”
He also said the officiating was more lax than the Lady Knights were used to, allowing more aggressive play.
“I’m not sure we were ready for that aggressiveness, that physicality,” he said. “I can’t take anything away from the other team, though. They were very good. Very athletic.”
Stormee Van Belle led the scoring for the Lady Knights with 15 points. She also collected eight rebounds. Annie Brouwer had 11 points and Brittany Broersma contributed another eight points.
The Lady Knights were outscored from long range, making only two treys in the game compared to six by Tekoa-Oakesdale.
The Nighthawks were led by Marrie Jo Johnson with 15 points and Olivia Pakootas with 14 points.
This marks the first time in just over a decade that the Lady Knights have not gone to the State tournament.
“This was the only loss we had all year,” said Smeenk. “The best team did win, right at the end. Now we’re rooting for (Coach) Rick (Puente) and the (Sunnyside) Lady Grizzlies.”