KENNEWICK — If you're going to survive in the forest, it certainly helps to know how to shoot.
The Chiawana Riverhawks navigated their way through the tall trees at Southridge High School on Friday, using their marksmen to take down the Suns 66-60 in Kennewick.
Chiawana, with only one starter taller than 6-foot-1, faced the daunting task of neutralizing a Southridge front line that measured 6-3, 6-6 and 6-6. And that's not even including 6-3 guard Matt Mendenhall.
Brad Scott wasn't making things easy on the Riverhawks defense, hauling down five rebounds -- including a putback off a Mendenhall miss 3:44 into the game -- in the first four minutes as the Suns grabbed a 12-11 first-quarter lead.
Chiawana shot just 3-of-13 in the first quarter but found its range in the second frame, hitting five of its first eight shots from outside to open up a 33-18 lead with 1:10 to go in the half. Four players -- Jesse Briones, Enrique Perez, Miquiyah Zamora and Brandon Mendoza -- hit 3-pointers during the run that turned the game around completely.
"Once you hit that first shot, you're always in a rhythm," said Zamora, who led all scorers with 23 points, adding nine rebounds and four assists. "We don't want people to think this is a rebuilding year. It's more of a reloading year."
After the Riverhawks suffered tough nonleague losses to Kennewick and Kamiakin, it was difficult to argue that point Friday.
"At the beginning of this year, I thought we'd be a good shooting team. This is a confident group that was sitting behind a pretty dang good group of seniors last year," Chiawana coach Chad Herron said. "They've just been waiting to prove themselves."
Josue Torres got into the act for the Riverhawks, canning a 3-pointer to open the second half scoring. Six players in all hit treys for Chiawana, which finished 12-of-22 from behind the arc.
Even an experienced coach like Jason DeVere wasn't sure how to neutralize that kind of shooting.
He did have a couple of ideas.
"Take the ball and poke a hole in it. Throw it in the stands," DeVere joked. "A lot of credit to them. They weren't uncontested shots, either."
The Riverhawks continued building their lead, which reached 20 points when Brandon Mendoza drained an 18-foot jumper from the top of the key with 54 seconds left in the third quarter.
One of the Suns biggest challenges last season was finding depth, but they found some against Chiawana and used it to climb back into the game.
Southridge outscored the Riverhawks 28-19 in the fourth quarter, pulling to within five points when Austin Molt pump faked in the low block and sank a soft 8-footer to make it 59-54 with 1:48 left.
Of the Suns' 28 fourth-quarter points, all but six came from the bench, including 10 from junior guard Nick Haberling. Molt, a reserve junior guard, also finished with 14 points. Haberling had 12.
"It's been really fun in practice watching these guys battle it out," DeVere said. "If one guy's not getting it done, another is going to step up. In three games so far, it's been three different guys coming up big."
Scott fouled out with 4:16 to go in the game. He was effective -- he led Southridge with 17 points and 10 rebounds -- but still struggled against the swarming defense by Chiawana.
"I think they just played good help defense. I've just got to learn to kick out to my team a little better," Scott said.
Hawks' senior guard Enrique Perez hit 3 of 4 from 3-point range to finish with 11 points. Zach Mendoza added 12 points, hitting 2 of 4 from long range.
CHIAWANA -- Torres 3, Z.Mendoza 12, Perez 11, Miquiyah Zamora 23, Babinchuk, B.Mendoza 7, Knight 3, Briones 7. Totals 17-44 20-26 66.
SOUTHRIDGE -- Mazzell, Mendenhall 9, Willard, Brad Scott 17, Titus, Vorheis 6, Molt 14, Haberling 12, Wyborne 2, Vorheis 6, Sanders. Totals 23-52 12-15 60.
Chiawana 9 22 16 19 -- 66
Southridge 12 7 13 28 -- 60
Highlights -- Rebounds: C 32 (Zamora 9), S 34 (Scott 10); 3-pointers: C 12-22 (Zamora 4), S 2-14 (Mendenhall, Haberling); Turnovers: C 16, S 13; Assists: C 10 (Zamora 4), S 5 (Molt 2).