SUNNYSIDE SUNNYSIDE — It will be an exciting weekend for lower valley hoops fans as six teams compete at state basketball tournaments.
Sunnyside High School will be a newcomer at 4A boys state at the Tacoma Dome. Zillah and Sunnyside Christian will be looking for repeat boys state titles at Yakima and Spokane respectively.
The Mabton Vikings will kick off the action with a 10:30 a.m. game today against St. George’s in the class 2B girls tournament at the Spokane Arena.
The Vikings will have to defeat the No. 7-ranked team in the state to continue in the tournament. In that case, they would play No. 1 Ilwaco at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
The Sunnyside boys will compete at state for the first time since 1990. This is the school’s first 4A tourney. They will play Lewis and Clark of Spokane today at 9 p.m.
“They’re real excited. The whole school and the community are excited,” coach Bruce Siebol said.
If their experience against No. 1-ranked Gonzaga Prep of Spokane (80-44 loss) is an indication, the Grizzlies will face a tough contest. Sunnyside must win to stay in the tourney.
The Zillah girls, 22-2, will start play at the class 1A tournament at the Yakima Valley Sun Dome against Cle Eum today at 7:15 p.m.. Zillah must win to remain in the tournament.
Sunnyside Christian’s girls, 22-2, will start at 3:45 p.m. tomorrow in the 1B tournament in the Spokane Arena against the winner of today’s Selkirk-Yakama Nation game.
The Knights boys will play their first game in the 1B tournament at 10:30 a.m. Thursday against an opponent to be decided today.
The Zillah boys, 23-1, will start at 12:15 p.m. tomorrow at the 1A tournament at the Yakima Valley Sun Dome against Mt. Baker or Bellevue Christian, whichever wins today.
The Zillah boys won the state title last year. They are back with a new cast and knocking on the door again.
“That’s the Zillah program; that’s what we do,” coach Mario Mengarelli said. “These kids like to win.”
The Leopards are not a tall team, but they are talented. They were under-sized against Northwest School in their last game and just ran away to 69-51 victory.
The team’s leader is 5-11 junior guard Antonio Salinas, averaging 21.9 points per game. He’s disruptive on defense and hard stop on the dribble drive.
Brock Ellis adds 15.5 points per game, and Cesar Diaz scores 12.
Zillah’s two big boys are 6-3 Weston Ide and 6-3 Sebastian Godina. Both have scored in double figures, and both are strong rebounders.
Sunnyside Christian boys coach Dean Wagenaar has had practically the same team for three years. The Knights took third place two years ago and captured the crown last year.
The team is basically four juniors and four seniors. Six of them play regularly, and two give the others breaks.
The seniors are 6-3 Cade Bosma, 6-3 Luke Wagenaar, 6-0 Chance Marsh and 5-11 Wayne Marsh.
The juniors are 6-3 Ross Faber, 6-2 Brennan Rip, 6-0 Lucas Dykstra and 5-10 Kyler Marsh.
Four of the Knights average double figure scoring, and they all play a scrappy defense.
The Sunnyside Christian girls could be the best team in the state. They are favored to win Thursday and advance to a Friday semifinal against top-ranked Colton.
“Colton is always the best team,” coach Al Smeenk said.
Before last year’s third-place finish, Colton had won six straight championships.
The Knights have a good team too, led by 5-2 point guard Sailor Lieske. The senior scored her 1,000th career point in the first game this season and is up in the 1,300 range. She averages more than 16 per game.
But Lieske’s real value is her ball handling skills. She dribbles better than most and makes accurate passes.
“I don’t worry too much playing against presses,” Smeenk said. “I just give her the ball.”
The Knights have two big girls on the inside. Emily Banks, a 6-1 senior, averages 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jenna Andringa, a 6-0 freshman averages 8 and 8.
Another girl who puts up about 15 points a game is 5-8 Alyssa Martin. She shoots well from outside, is quick and plays tough defense.
Until they ran into Gonzaga Prep, the 19-4 Sunnyside Grizzlies had lost only to basketball-rich Davis. Siebol said the boys have come back well from the trouncing at Spokane.
The Grizzlies are led by a pair of 5-10 guards. Trey Sanchez, Sunnyside’s second all-time leading scorer, averaged 24.5 points per game.
The other 5-10 leader is point guard Art Palacios. He scores 14 points per game and dishes out 10 assists.
Lewis and Clark has no player shorter than 6 feet, and the center stands 6-8. That front line will be formidable for Sunnyside’s 6-6 Gus Contreras, 6-2 Izzy Zavala and 5-11 Derek Escamilla.