Basketball: Sunnyside girls secure trophy finish

March 7, 2014 

State Basketball

Sunnyside's Natalia Bazan is fouled by Lincoln's Kiaira Thomas during action in the consolation bracket of the Class 3A girls basketball tournament Friday at the Tacoma Dome. Sunnyside won 67-54 to advance to Saturday's trophy games.

PATRICK HAGERTY — Patrick Hagerty

TACOMA — The Sunnyside girls basketball locker room was full of tears Friday.

But it wasn’t because the Grizzlies were lamenting a loss, rather because they had locked up the best season for the program since 1991 with a 67-54 victory over Lincoln in a Class 3A state tournament elimination game at the Tacoma Dome.

“It is unbelievable to be the team that gets to go this far,” Sunnyside’s Jordan Rodriguez said. “After all the people have doubted us since I was a freshman, saying ‘Oh, Sunnyside has never been good.’ Now look at us. We are at state and could possibly be the best team in Sunnyside that’s ever been.”

The Grizzlies (23-4) will play University (11-15) at 9:30 a.m. Saturday for fourth place. The loser gets sixth place. The Grizzlies haven’t been at state since 2002 and haven’t brought home a trophy since taking sixth in 1991.

“We have the opportunity to go and get some hardware,” Sunnyside coach Rick Puente said. “That was our last goal, to come home with a trophy, and we did that.”

To top it off, Sunnyside returns all but one player from this team. The Grizzlies start a freshman and another sees significant playing time.

“It’s a great feeling. I’ve always wanted to experience it,” said Emilee Maldonado, a freshman. “Now that I’m here, it’s amazing.”

The team goals weren’t the only thing met Friday. Rodriguez passed the 1,000-point mark with a layup in the first quarter. She is at least the fourth girl in school history to reach the plateau.

“Ever since I was little, I wanted to get my 1,000 points and I wanted to do it my junior year,” Rodriguez said. “I got it at the end of my junior year, which is even more exciting.”

The Grizzlies jumped on Lincoln from the start of the game, giving the Metro League school fits with their defense.

Sunnyside forced six turnovers in the first quarter and used a 13-3 run to close the first eight minutes to take a 22-12 lead. Lincoln pulled within 22-20 early in the second quarter, but the Grizzlies responded with a 9-2 run and were rarely challenged the rest of the afternoon.

“We just got back to our old selves,” Puente said. “We got back to playing the team ball, sharing and distributing the ball. There were some times where we did some good things (Thursday), but (Friday) we did them for the entire game. That was the big ticket here.”

The Grizzlies also featured a balanced scoring effort Friday, something that was lacking a bit Thursday.

Maldonado had a team-high 19 points, Natalia Bazan added 18 and Rodriguez had 14 points and 13 rebounds. The lone senior Vanessa Alvarez added seven points.

“We have some girls who can fill it up,” Puente said, “but they play very, very unselfish. They really bought into the team concept. I’m glad that we got here. I’m glad that they achieved that victory the way they did as an overall team effort.”

LINCOLN — Kiara Thomas 1-7 1-2 3, Amira Turner 1-8 1-2 3, Breneya Johnson 6-10 1-5 13, Isis Amen 0-1 0-0 0, Donaisiah Brooks 0-0 0-0 0, Aaqula Turner 1-5 0-0 2, Kayla McLean 0-0 2-2 2, Joy Failauga 1-4 0-0 3, Charity Talo 0-0 0-0 0, Victoria Mukisa 0-0 0-0 0, Jasmine Mamea 1-2 1-3 3, Tamia Braggs 8-16 9-10 54. Totals 19-53 15-24 54.

SUNNYSIDE — Mireya Herrera 0-0 0-0 0, Vanessa Alvarez 1-4 5-7 7, Summer Hazzard 0-0 0-0 0, Jasmine Lua 0-2 0-0 0, Jazel Trevino 0-0 1-2 1, Aubrey Isquierdo 0-0 0-0 0, Natalia Bazan 8-10 0-0 18, Selena Rubalcava 1-11 3-4 5, Emilee Maldonado 4-10 8-10 19, Jessica Mendoza 1-7 1-4 3, Jordan Rodriguez 5-16 2-2 14. Totals 20-60 20-29 67.

Lincoln            12            14            12            16            —            54

Sunnyside            22            16            9            20            —            67

3-point goals—Lincoln 1-3 (Failauga 1-1, Turner 0-2), Sunnyside 7-15 (Maldonado 3-4, Rodriguez 2-5, Bazan 2-3, Alvarez 0-1, Rubalcava 0-1, Mendoza 0-1). Rebounds—Lincoln 45 (Johnson 9), Sunnyside 40 (Rodriguez 13). Assists—Lincoln 10 (Thomas 7), Sunnyside 8 (Rodriguez 3). Turnovers—Lincoln 21, Sunnyside 10. Fouls—Lincoln 22, Sunnyside 20.

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