Basketball: Sunnyside girls lose state opener

March 6, 2014 

State Basketball

Sunnyside's Selena Rubalcava pokes the ball away from Bellevue's Elisa Park during action in the quarterfinals of the 3A Girls State Basketball Tournament on Thursday, March 6, 2014 in Tacoma, Wash. Bellevue won the contest 66-58 to advance.

PATRICK HAGERTY — Patrick Hagerty

TACOMA — Normally, it is the opposition that runs out of gas when the Sunnyside girls basketball team is involved.

On Thursday at the Tacoma Dome, though, it was the Grizzlies who expended so much energy climbing out of a big deficit that they fell short in the end, falling 66-58 to Bellevue in the Class 3A state tournament.

“We talked about how much energy you have to exert to get back into a game,” Sunnyside coach Rick Puente said. “When you play the way these girls play — pedal to the metal —it is tough to come from behind. They got a lot of fight in them.”

The Grizzlies (22-4) will play Lincoln at 12:15 p.m. today in a consolation game at the Tacoma Dome.

A victory will guarantee Sunnyside its first state trophy since 1991, while a loss will be just experience gained for a young team.

“I’d like to do that,” junior Jordan Rodriguez said. “I’d like to get us on the map. My year, my team that got us the win. We will just go out there with that mindset that we want to win, we want to do this.”

To beat Lincoln, the Grizzlies will need a better start and a better finish than happened against Bellevue.

Sunnyside ran and ran and ran, playing at a frenetic pace, trying to overcome a clear lack of size. At times, it worked out, as the Grizzlies forced eight turnovers in the third quarter and erased a seven-point deficit.

At other times, though, it misfired.

Sunnyside trailed 60-57 with 90 seconds left but came down and forced a 3-pointer that rimmed off. After two free throws at the other end, the Grizzlies forced another 3-pointer that also missed.

“That is how we play, and it is tough to tell them to rein it in,” Puente said. “I know everything in the book says we should’ve kept on driving, but at the same time they were good looks. Not something that we were forcing.

“I encourage the girls to take those shots most of the time; they just didn’t fall (Thursday).”

Bellevue jumped on Sunnyside from the start, as the young Grizzlies — they have just one senior and hadn’t been to state since 2002 — turned the ball over and missed plenty of open looks.

Bellevue led by as many as eight in the first quarter, but Sunnyside pulled within 24-21 late in the second quarter.

Bellevue responded, though, closing on a 6-2 run as Sunnyside turned the ball over on its final three possessions of the half.

“We just fell short,” Sunnyside’s Natalia Bazan said. “None of our shots were falling.”

The Grizzlies also lost post player Tiana Perez to a knee injury in the second quarter. She didn’t return and it showed, as Bellevue got its inside game working, punishing the tiny Grizzlies.

The teams went back-and-forth throughout the second half, with Sunnyside twice tying the game, but never taking the lead.

“It’s sad, but nobody expected us to be here,” Rodriguez said. “At least we got here and got to experience it. Knowing we don’t have to go home tomorrow is even better.”

Bellevue junior Mandy Steward scored a career-high 32 points to lead the Wolverines, making five 3-pointers.

Rodriguez’s 15 points and nine rebounds led Sunnyside, while Emilee Maldonado added 13 points.

BELLEVUE — Dejah Rogers 4-4 2-2 11, Erin McGowan 1-1 0-0 3. Elisa Park 0-2 1-4 1, Holly Warendorf 0-1 0-0 0, Mackenzie Keeter 0-1 1-2 1, Ann-Marie Jacobs 1-4 0-0 2, Katie Holmes 0-4 1-2 1, Mandy Steward 10-17 7-8 32, Shelby Cansler 6-16 3-4 15. Totals 22-50 15-22 66.

SUNNYSIDE — Vanessa Alvarez 2-4 1-2 5, Jasmine Lua 0-0 0-0 0, Jazel Trevino 0-0 0-0 0, Natalia Bazan 3-12 0-0 7, Selena Rubalcava 3-12 2-3 9, Emilee Maldonado 4-11 4-6 13, Jessica Mendoza 3-5 1-3 7, Jordan Rodriguez 5-11 5-6 15, Tiana Perez 1-7 0-0 2. Totals 21-62 13-20 58.

Bellevue 18 12 15 21 — 66

Sunnyside 10 13 21 14 — 58

3-point goals—Bellevue 7-11 (Steward 5-7, Rogers 1-1, McGowan 1-1, Holmes 0-2), Sunnyside 3-16 (Rubalcava 1-6, Bazan 1-3, Maldonado 1-3, Rodriguez 0-3, Mendoza 0-1). Rebounds—Bellevue 49 (Cansler 10), Sunnyside 33 (Rodriguez 9). Fouls—Bellevue 19, Sunnyside 17. Fouled out, Rubalcava

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