RICHLAND — Some nights, the stars don't always shine.
They didn't for Sunnyside, which played without all-CBBN senior guard Israel Manzo in a 68-60 loss to Southridge on Tuesday in the CBBN 3A district play-in game at Art Dawald Gym in Richland.
Meanwhile, the Suns achieved what must have seemed at mid-season like an impossible goal of reaching the district playoffs. Despite losing eight of nine league games during one stretch, Southridge won three of its last five to clinch a postseason berth.
"I can't be more proud of these guys for fighting back the last couple of weeks. We've got new life," said Suns coach Jason DeVere, whose team will visit Hanford at 7 p.m. Friday in a first-round district matchup. "(Hanford) is a good matchup for us, and we're looking forward to it."
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Manzo, a first-team all-CBBN guard for each of the last two seasons (and surely again this season), did not attend Monday's team practice because it conflicted with a meeting at his church. By choosing not to practice, however, he was in violation of the program's conduct code, according to Grizzlies athletic director Bill Daley, and thereby not allowed to play Tuesday.
"We put in a game plan for him to make sure he was accounted for. I know that was a big blow to Sunnyside to lose your No. 1 guy," DeVere said. "But you've got to give them credit."
In Manzo's absence, junior guards Eric Amaro, Brandon Daley and Trey Serl scored 15 points apiece, but the Suns relied on their big horse inside -- Brad Scott -- to carry them down the stretch. The 6-foot-6 senior post scored seven points in the fourth quarter, including a key three-point play off a missed three pointer by Nick Mandell that put Southridge up 58-49 with 5:29 left in the game.
"I think we really wanted this for the seniors. We take care of our seniors," Scott said. "I was feeling good tonight. Coach always tells me to look for my shot."
He found it in the second quarter, highlighting a 9-2 run with an aggressive drive along the right baseline as the Suns took a 20-17 lead. Southridge ended the quarter on an 11-2 run when Scott stepped out for a 3-pointer and then drove the paint for another three-point play. That pushed the Suns' halftime lead to 33-25.
"We want to get (Scott) touches. If he's doubled he's good at kicking the ball out to our guards," DeVere said. "He also had a really good game on the offensive glass. He had some big putbacks late in the game."
But the Grizzlies weren't ready to call it a season. After Southridge guard Garrett Willard opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to make it 36-25 Suns, Sunnyside got in gear with a 15-2 run.
"We're a pretty aggressive group. We made them turn the ball over with good ball pressure," Grizzlies coach Ron Rowe said. "The last six games, we've been playing stronger as a team."
Amaro hit a pair of free throws and then hit a 16-foot jumper in the lane. Daley then scored in transition and buried a 3 from the right corner off as assist from Greg Spini to cut it to 39-34. Then Serl got into the act, coming off the bench for back-to-back 3-pointers that gave the Grizzlies a 40-39 lead with 3:33 left in the quarter.
"When coach told us (Manzo) wasn't going to play, we knew some people were going to have to step up," Serl said. "When we got behind, I just tried to tell everybody there's a lot of game left."
Southridge regained the lead on Mandell's 3-pointer from the right wing with 3:16 left in the third and got a big boost from Henry Wyborne off the bench at the end of the frame. With the Suns trailing 47-46, the 6-2 junior post attacked the rack for 2 to give Southridge a 48-47 lead and then hit a 16-foot jumper from the right baseline to make it 50-47 with 32 seconds left in the third.
The Suns wouldn't trail again.
"That's what he's capable of doing, coming off the bench and being mentally ready to go. He had six points, but they were all big," said DeVere of Wyborne, affectionately nicknamed 'HD' by teammates and coaches.
Mandell, too, had a strong game off the bench, hitting three treys at critical junctures to finish with nine points.
"He's always been our shooter," Scott said.
SUNNYSIDE -- Fernandez 3, Brandon Daley 15, Salmeron 1, Eric Amaro 15, Spini 2, Trey Serl 15, Leija 7, Medina 2, Lugo. Totals 23-51 7-8 60.
SOUTHRIDGE -- Mazzei 4, Mendenhall 10, Willard 8, Hayes 6, Brad Scott 15, Vorheis 4, Haberling 6, Mandell 9, Wyborne 6, Molt. Totals 23-44 14-17 68.
Sunnyside 15 10 22 13 -- 60
Southridge 11 22 17 18 -- 68
Highlights -- Rebounds: Sun 21 (Amaro 6), SR 24 (Scott 6); 3-pointers: Sun 7 (Daley 3, Serl 3), SR 6 (Mandell 3); Turnovers: Sun 9, SR 12; Steals: Sun 5 (Serl 2), SR 6 (Matt Mendenhall 4).