YAKIMA – The juggernaut that is the undefeated Sunnyside Christian boys basketball team is running out of credible opposition at this year’s State 1B tournament.
Curlew proved to be the Knights’ stiffest test thus far, but Sunnyside Christian was the better team when it mattered in a 46-34 victory in the state semifinals Friday night at the SunDome.
Sunnyside Christian (25-0) assured itself a spot opposite Tulalip Heritage (23-3) in tonight’s championship game slated to tip off at 9. Curlew (17-9) will play Liberty Christian (19-9) in the third-place game at 5 p.m.
Curlew trailed only 27-25 going into the fourth quarter, but Sunnyside Christian imposed its will and dominated the final 8 minutes. Knights point guard Aaron Van de Graaf scored nine of his 12 points in the quarter, and Curlew was hampered further when its point guard, Dillon Strandberg, fouled out with 4 1/2 minutes remaining.
The Cougars’ top two scorers, Austin Mannick and Strandberg combined to score only 10 points on collective 4-for-20 shooting from the field.
“They score 10 points between ‘em, and we’re still in the game,” Curlew coach Doug Grumbach said. “Obviously, (the Knights’) keys were to shut them down, and they did a good job. But if we hit a few shots that we had, this game might be going the other way.”
Grumbach was disappointed with the loss, but he praised his players for making the game as close as it was against a Sunnyside Christian team that has defeated its three tournament opponents by an average margin of over 15 points.
“They gave me everything, and we were in the game almost to the end,” Grumbach said. “I don’t think a lot of people in the stands thought we could do that. … I told them I’m proud of them and that they mean the world to me. This week they have done some amazing things.”
Cole Van de Graaf punished the Cougars in the low post and finished with 20 points on 7-for-8 shooting. He also collected six rebounds.
“When we’re working the post and they double up on that, we have to hit shots,” he said. “That opens everything up.”
Curlew’s opponent today, Liberty Christian, fell short in the other semifinal and lost to Tulalip Heritage 66-51.
“We want third, and we think we deserve third,” Grumbach said. “Of course, I know we’re also playing a team that think they deserve third, too.”
Entiat 58, St. John-Endicott 45: Fredy Quezada led Entiat with 14 points, 13 rebounds and four steals, and Jeff Pittsinger again played steady basketball in the post to guide the Tigers’ victory in the consolation bracket.
Six of Quezada’s rebounds were on the offensive end, and Entiat (19-6) outrebounded the Eagles 46-31. Pittsinger contributed in the lane with 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
Jacob Anderson added 12 points for Entiat, which meets Moses Lake Christian today at 9 a.m. to determine fifth and eighth places.
Warren Miller and Phillip Luft scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, for SJE (15-14).
Tri-Cities Prep 41, Almira/Coulee-Hartline 28: The Warriors couldn’t survive their game-long shooting slump and was ousted with the loss.
ACH (10-15) didn’t register one player with more than eight points, and the lack of offensive production proved costly in the second half. The Jaguars outscored ACH 22-10 in the second half, holding the Warriors to four points over the final 8 minutes.
ACH’s leading scorer this season, Greg Giese, misfired on 7 of 8 shots and tallied only two points. He also played only 2 minutes in the second half, complicating the Warriors’ woes.
Lummi 49, LaCrosse-Washtucna 35: Lummi’s Glen Robertson knifed through the LaCrosse-Washtucna defense for 20 points, and Lummi established control early and never let go to knock the Tigercats out of the tournament.
The Blackhawks (13-12) outscored LaCrosse-Washtucna 21-6 in the first quarter, and the Tigercats never were able to generate enough offense to overcome the deficit. LaCrosse-Washtucna made only 13 of 56 shots (23.2 percent) from the field.
A senior guard, Robertson repeatedly attacked the Tigercats’ defense and was rewarded with 18 free throws. He made 10 of them.
Jared Ayers-Stamper scored 17 points and hauled down 14 rebounds for LaCrosse-Washtucna (12-17). Garrett Blauert added 10 points off the bench.