Toast of the town

SHS Lady Grizzlies eager for return to Hardwood Classic

Sunnyside High girls basketball Coach Rick Puente, and players (L-R) Selena Rubalcava, Natalia Bazan, Vanessa Alvarez, Jordan Rodriguez and Tiana Perez talk about the team’s State tournament experience at Monday’s Noon Rotary Club meeting.

Photo by Jennie McGhan
Sunnyside High girls basketball Coach Rick Puente, and players (L-R) Selena Rubalcava, Natalia Bazan, Vanessa Alvarez, Jordan Rodriguez and Tiana Perez talk about the team’s State tournament experience at Monday’s Noon Rotary Club meeting.



This past season was arguably the best in Lady Grizzly basketball.

The Sunnyside High School girls basketball team was 23-4 and earned fourth-place honors at the 3A State Hardwood Classic. The team also earned the league, district and regional championships.

Coach Rick Puente and five members of the team this past Monday talked to Sunnyside’s Noon Rotary Club about the experience.

Puente said, “Playing the regional tourney at Ike was like playing on a home court.”

He said the fans supported the team throughout the playoffs and there was a strong following at the State tournament. He said SHS alumni attending the many colleges in the Seattle area, as well as alumni living there attended the tournament to root for the Lady Grizzlies.

“The roar of the crowd was awesome…at State it was almost Hoosier-esque,” Puente said.

He said Sunnyside had a tough draw for the first game of the State tournament. They played Bellevue, but never stopped fighting.

“We knew we could’ve let the loss get the best of us…but, the team was determined and had the mentality that we didn’t get to Tacoma to go 0-2,” said Puente.

He said the Lady Grizzlies didn’t give up, even after losing its tallest player, Tiana Perez, to an injury.

“It was a test of character,” said Puente, noting the team capped off its season by defeating University of Spokane for fourth-place honors.

“Yes, the team was happy…ecstatic. But, they are already eager to get back to practice,” said Puente.

He said the team will lose Vanessa Alvarez, who graduates this year. However, “…we have a great nucleus.”

Puente said there are a lot of talented younger players ready to join the varsity squad, vying for a position.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said.

Selena Rubalcava said the last time the Lady Grizzlies made a State appearance was when her mother was playing for Sunnyside.

Natalia Bazan and Alvarez said competing in the State tournament was the realization of a childhood dream.

“We wondered what it would be like…it was huge,” Bazan said.

Alvarez, the only member of the team since Puente took the reins four years ago, said, “I am proud of all we accomplished.”

Teammate Jordan Rodriguez said the experience was life-changing and she believes everyone on the team has a new perspective.

“The first game didn’t start with this season…it started our freshman year,” said Perez.

She said the Lady Grizzlies are bonded and have become a family through the years.

When speaking of her injury, Perez said of the team, “I had faith in their abilities.”

Puente said he is confident about next season, even though Sunnyside is going from 3A to the class 4A ranks. He said Sunnyside has competed against some very strong teams. One of those teams, Moses Lake, was in the 4A State tournament this season.

He said Sunnyside will continue to be competitive in the 4A classification.

“These girls fight and they fight hard,” said Puente.



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