SCH girls second place finish at State
SPOKANE - Plan B propelled Sunnyside Christian’s girls to a semi-final win over Republic last Friday and into the State 1B basketball finals.
But plans C, D and even E couldn’t earn the Lady Knights their first-ever State title as they fell 89-70 to Colton in Saturday’s championship game.
“Our plan was to stop them inside and force them to shoot 3’s,” Sunnyside Christian Coach Al Smeenk said of defending the Wildcats.
The strategy worked for the game’s first six minutes with Sunnyside Christian building a 20-10 lead.
Senior Annie Brouwer and freshman sparkplug Sailor Liefke combined for 13 points. The Lady Knights had the six-time defending State champs reeling.
Sunnyside Christian controlled the paint - the 5-2 Liefke blocked two shots for crying out loud - and reached the free throw line nearly every trip down the court.
Plan A was working to perfection.
Or so it seemed.
The Wildcats are fearless from behind the arc and began connecting on one rainbow after another.
In a span of 10 minutes Savannah Chadwick drained five 3’s and sparked a 32-12 run, vaulting the Wildcats to a 42-32 lead at the half.
At halftime Smeenk and company switched to plan B, deny the outside shot.
Colton’s Zoe Moser changed those plans in a hurry, scoring 19 of her game-high 35 points in the third quarter. The junior guard, at 5-7 and cat-like quick, frustrated the Lady Knights with a mix of drives to the hoop and popping from the perimeter.
Plans C, D and E quickly followed, but to no avail.
“She’s so hard to defend,” Smeenk said of Moser. He said the Lady Knights tried up to five different schemes to thwart her. “We had to throw the kitchen sink at her.”
Colton’s lead reached 64-42 with a couple minutes to play in the third, when Sunnyside Christian caught a glimmer of hope.
All those Wildcat fouls in the early going - the Lady Knights for the game earned a record 45 free throw attempts - forced Colton to bench some of its starters.
Wildcat post Winnie Schultheis was among them, and forward Katelyn Banks took advantage for the Lady Knights. She scored the last seven points of the third quarter and pulled Sunnyside Christian within 15 points heading into the fourth.
The Lady Knights got as close as 13, but back-to-back 3’s by the Wildcats socked away the championship game victory.
Colton relied on a rain of 3’s to extend its reign over girls 1B hoops for a seventh straight year.
Five Colton players connected from three-point range Saturday, shooting a combined 15-for-33 from treyland.
“It makes a coach want to tear his hair out sometimes, but we don’t worry about the scoreboard...we just keep shooting,” said a relieved Clark Vining, coach of the Wildcats.
“Give’m credit, they’re the best we’ve seen,” Smeenk said of the Wildcats after losing to them in the title game for the second time in three years. “They just had too many good athletes, we didn’t have enough to keep up.”
In her final game for the Lady Knights, Brouwer led the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Banks tallied 21 points and hauled down a game-high 16 rebounds.
Liefke ended the game with 11 points, seven rebounds and the aforementioned two blocked shots. “I just tap the ball away from behind,” she said of the two swats.
It was also Brouwer who led Sunnyside Christian in its 70-58 semi-final win over Republic on Friday. The senior scored 30 points in a game closer than the final margin indicates.
The Lady Knights saw a 14-point first half lead evaporate and clung to a 43-40 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Feasting off a spate of Sunnyside Christian turnovers, the Tigers’ Demi Jo Vaughn poured in seven of her team-high 17 points in the third.
That’s when Smeenk installed plan B, chucking a man to man defense in favor of a 2-3 zone.
“When the game is close, you have to try different things to extend the lead,” he said of the change up on D. “Sometimes it works.”
The switch allowed Sunnyside Christian to get out and run in transition.
The KB’s (forwards Katelyn Banks and Kristen Broersma) put the kibosh on Republic’s hopes, combining for 15 points in the fourth.
“As a team we knew Republic would want to run...we wanted to show them how it’s done,” said Brouwer.
Broersma, only a sophomore, turned in a yeoman’s performance with Banks double-teamed much of the night.
“I expect that from her every night, she’s capable of it,” Smeenk said of Broersma’s double-double on Friday (16 points, 10 rebounds).
Twenty-four hours later, Colton doused any Sunnyside Christian expectation of a first ever State title.
The Lady Knights (24-3) return all but one player, senior Annie Brouwer, from this year’s State runner-up team.
They already have 2016 and a return to the Spokane Arena on their radar.
“I’ve been wanting to win a State championship...hopefully it’ll happen next year,” said Liefke.
Smeenk added, “We want to be back here next year.”
Sounds like a plan.