For the second straight night, the Sunnyside High School girls basketball team trailed by a healthy margin after halftime.
For the second straight night, the Grizzlies made an inconceivable comeback, and led in the dying moments of the game.
But Sunnyside didn’t have enough in the tank to go all the way for a second straight night on Thursday, falling to No. 3 Glacier Peak 48-47 in the 4A quarterfinal of the Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Sunnyside coach Rick Puente said. “All that we can ask of them is that they play their hardest and leave it on the court, and they did that tonight.”
Sunnyside erased a 29-20 deficit near the start of the third quarter by going on a 15-2 run and taking the lead at 32-31 with about 3 minutes left in the period. The No. 4 Grizzlies (19-4) held that lead until Kayla Watkins hit a pair of free throws to put Glacier Peak ahead 48-47 with 16 seconds to go.
“That’s our mantra; we’re all in all the time,” Puente said. “We never give up. We preach relentlessness and we preach resiliency. And we preach fighting adversity, getting through tough times. Those are life skills, and they use them on a daily basis.”
Sunnyside trailed by 15 points late in the third quarter against Auburn Riverside on Wednesday in the round of 12, and came back to win 55-46
Watkins, who scored a team high 18 points, hit all four of her free throws in the last minute — her only attempts of the game. She also pulled down eight rebounds and nabbed several offensive boards in the last couple minutes that allowed Glacier Peak (23-1) to go on a 10-2 run to close the game.
Puente attributed his team’s troubles on the glass late in the game more to Watkins’ size (6-foot-2) and ability, rather than anything Sunnyside was doing wrong.
“When you give a foot away to another player, it’s tough to be on top of rebounding,” Puente said. “All I can ask of them is that they battle, and for the opposing player to walk away and say ‘man, I really had to battle to get what I got today.’ And I think they did that today.”
Peak outrebounded Sunnyside 18-13 in the second half and pulled down seven offensive rebounds in that time.
The contest featured a bit of a controversial ending as GP’s Paisley Johnson missed the front end of a one-and-one with 4.7 seconds on the clock, and Sunnyside’s Emilee Moldonado appeared to get hacked while attempting a buzzer beater 3-pointer.
Puente chose to take the high road on the call.
“It didn’t come down to the last shot,” he said. “We had situations that we need to take care of in the first and second quarter, throughout the game. You’d love to be able to pinpoint one play, and say it’s that one play, but it wasn’t.”
Glacier Peak opened the game with a 7-0 run in the first minute capped by an Abbie Juozpaitis 3-pointer. But Sunnyside called a timeout and rattled off seven straight of its own to answer and tie it up with 3:40 to go in the first.
The teams traded blows, and the lead, into the beginning of the second quarter. But Glacier Peak’s big four — Watkins, Juozpaitis, Johnson and Sam Fatkin — went on an 11-0 run that put GP up 24-14 with 3:40 to go in the first half, and it eventually led 27-20 at halftime.
The major woe for Sunnyside in the first half was pretty similar to the one it had the previous night, though not quite as extreme. The Grizzlies — a small team that mostly lives and dies by the 3 — was 3 of 14 from beyond the arc in the first 16 minutes.
They finished the night shooting 5 of 24 from deep, but Lexi Skyles was fairly efficient (3 of 8) and led Sunnyside with 20 points. Ashlee Maldonado, Emilee Maldonado and Chastitee Garza each recorded three assists.
Regarded as one of the deepest teams in the state — with four players averaging at least eight points per game — Glacier Peak got big contributions from Watkins, Johnson (13 points) and Juozapaitis (eight points). Fatkin, who averages just shy of 15 points per game, only scored five, but she had seven assists.
Glacier Peak has won 23 consecutive games.
Sunnyside will play the loser of the Moses Lake-Camas game in the fourth/sixth-place consolation bracket at 2 p.m. Thursday.
The Grizzlies took fourth in state in 2014 — when the current seniors were freshmen — and have a chance to repeat that performance if they win their next two games.
“We had a goal coming here, and that goal was to get some hardware, get a trophy,” he said. “Unfortunately we won’t be able to leave with a trophy that everybody wants when they leave here, but whatever it is, whatever the outcomes are, I’m pretty darn proud of these girls.”
Glacier Peak will play the winner of the Moses Lake-Camas game at 9 p.m. in the state semifinal.
SUNNYSIDE: Garza 2, Garcia, Newhouse, Salmeron, A.Maldonado 9, Salinas 3, E.Maldonado 8, Mendoza 2, Lexi Skyles 20, Zavala 3. Totals: 18-57 6-10 47.
GLACIER PEAK: Paisley Johnson 13, Fatkin 5, Jensen 4, Kayla Watkins 18, Guerra, McFadden, Juozapaitis 8. Totals: 20-45 6-10 48.
Highlights — S, Chastitee Garza 3 asts; Ashlee Maldonado 3 asts; Emilee Maldonado 3 asts, 3 stls; Jessica Mendoza 3 stls. GP, Sam Fatkin 7 asts; Watkins 8 rebs, 4x4 FTs.