The Sunnyside High School girls basketball team trailed Auburn Riverside 33-18 with 2 minutes to go in the third quarter Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome. The Grizzlies had scored nine points since the start of the second quarter, and shot 1 of 16 from 3-point range in the first half and 21 percent from the field.
But I guess it’s better to start making shots late rather than never.
Sunnyside’s Emilee and Ashlee Maldonado combined to score the game’s next 24 points, and the No. 5 Grizzlies went on a 29-3 run overall to spur a 55-46 victory over the No. 12 Ravens to advance to the quarterfinals of the Class 4A Hardwood Classic.
“Coming back in the second half was a really big accomplishment for us,” said Emilee Maldonado, a senior point guard. “We kept our composure, and just knew that things were eventually going to fall our way if we could keep our cool.
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“And the seniors, we knew that it was the last couple minutes, and it was just awesome.”
Sunnyside will play No. 3 Glacier Peak at 7:15 p.m. Thursday. The Grizzlies have only made it past the quarterfinal round of state once, in 1991. They lost their quarterfinal game in 2014 — when the current seniors were freshmen — but won two in a row after that to finish fourth in state.
Ashlee Maldonado, a sophomore guard, started the run by knocking down three straight 3-pointers. That seemed to inspire Emilee Maldonado, her sister, who hit a 2-point jumper with 2 seconds to go in the third, then scored eight points in the first 1:30 of the fourth.
“She (Ashlee Maldonado) had her shots, and I just told her to keep shooting,” Emilee Maldonado said. “Once she started to hit a few, and we were able to go back-to-back, we knew that we had each other’s back. We’re gonna come through and finish this game, and it showed.”
Emilee Maldonado’s 3-pointer with 7:20 to play put the Grizzlies up 34-33 — their first lead since the 3:20 mark of the first quarter — and they never trailed again. In total, Sunnyside went on a 35-6 run that lasted exactly 8 minutes and stretched into the last two minutes of the game.
“It’s amazing because she’s my sister,” Ashlee Maldonado said of the run she and Emilee went on. “We had a goal when we came here to state, and it paid off.”
Emilee Maldonado wound up with game highs of 26 points — 21 in second half — and three steals. Ashlee Maldonado scored 16 points and dished six assists.
In order to win, the Grizzlies were going to have to hit some outside shots. Auburn Riverside’s 6-foot-3 senior center Faith Turner towered over the Grizzlies, whose tallest starter was the 5-7 Ashlee Maldonado.
Turner recorded a game high 14 rebounds to go with her 10 points. She didn’t record a block, but she made it almost impossible for Sunnyside to penetrate.
“I urged the girls at halftime to just stay the course, stay the course and believe in the game plan,” Sunnyside coach Rick Puente said. “We knew we couldn’t go inside with that big team. They have some tall timbers and we couldn’t get in there and knock those things down.
“We had to knock shots down from outside, and in the first half they weren’t falling. But at halftime I just said ‘believe in it, believe in it,’ and it will come around. And it did.”
Senior point guard Mckenzi Williams paced the Ravens offensively, scoring 24 points and recording four assists.
The Ravens ended the first quarter on a 10-2 run to lead 15-9, and dominated further in the second to lead 22-13 at halftime.
While the Grizzlies had their fair share of problems on the offensive end in the first half, a terrier-like defensive effort kept them within striking range. In the middle of the second quarter, the teams went 4:35 without scoring a point, and the Ravens were scoreless for 5 minutes.
“I knew coming in here, and especially for the sophomores it was going to be a jittery game,” Emilee Maldonado said. “Walking in we knew that it was a different court, a different arena, and that was what really kind of threw us off I would say.”
But the Grizzlies stuck with the game plan and just kept shooting. Now they’re going to be playing at the Tacoma Dome until at least Friday.
“The last message coming out of half was that we believe in them, as the coaching staff, and that they’ve gotta believe in each other and believe in themselves,” Puente said. “And boy they did.”
AUBURN RIVERSIDE: Lee 3, Denton 7, Forte, Brown, Galarza, Mckenzi Williams 24, Dye 2, Faith Turner. Totals: 17-46 9-13 46.
SUNNYSIDE: Garza, Dulm, Garcia, Newhouse, Salmeron, Ashlee Maldonado 16, Salinas, Emilee Maldonado 26, Mendoza 4, Skyles 7, Valle 1, Zavala 1. Totals: 19-52 8-17 55.
Highlights — AR, Turner 14 rebs, Williams 4 asts. S, E.Maldonado 4x7 3pts, 4 asts, 3 stls; A.Maldonado 3 3-pts, 6 asts.