Sunnyside improves Big Nine record to 3-1

GIRLS PREP BASKETBALL

After dismantling the offensively challenged Eisenhower Cadets last Friday night, Sunnyside emerged victorious on Saturday in a wild shootout against the Moses Lake Chiefs.

The two victories boost the Lady Grizzly basketball team’s Big Nine League record to 3-1, 6-1 overall.

In knocking off the visiting Chiefs on Saturday by an 83-71 score, Sunnyside received double-digit scoring performances from Jordan Rodriguez, Selena Rubalcava, Vanessa Alvarez and Emilee Maldonado.

Rodriguez, last season’s Big Nine League player of the year, lit up the scoreboard for 21 points. Eight of those came in the final period, a barn burner of a quarter that saw the two teams combine for 57 points.

“With Moses Lake scoring 29 points in that final quarter and us with 28, everything was falling for both teams,” said SHS Coach Rick Puente. “The pace of the play and the desire to score at the end of the game, it was obvious neither team wanted to lose this game.”

The 5’8” Rodriguez, besides stepping up big with a hot shooting hand, snatched four loose balls off the glass against the much taller Chiefs, as did Sunnyside’s tallest player, 5’10” Tiana Perez. Rodriguez, too, came away with two steals.

Sharing game-high scoring honors with Rodriguez was teammate Selena Rubalcava. At only 5’5” tall, Rubalcava time and again drove the paint and challenged the tall timber with twisting, leaning, looping shots.

“Yeah,” admitted Puente, “Selena isn’t very big, but she’s fearless. She’s not afraid to go inside and take on the bigger girls.”

Rubalcava, held scoreless the previous night at Eisenhower, actually got the bulk of her 21 points from long range. She drained four shots from behind the 3-point arc, leading Sunnyside to a 7-for-15 effort from behind the 3-point line.

Displeased with the goose egg she laid on the Ike court Friday evening, Puente said Rubalcava showed up early for Saturday morning’s walk-through. “She worked on getting her shot back,” he said.

Alvarez and Maldonado each added 16-point efforts in the Lady Grizzlies’ win over Moses Lake.

The lone senior on the club, Alvarez hadn’t exactly been living up to the expectations that come with being a returning first team all-leaguer. Saturday, though, she used her quickness in getting down the floor first on transition, and some slip-and-slide baseline moves, to record her first double-digit scoring performance of the season.

Maldonado, the freshman phenom who might stand 5’2” tall on her tippy toes, popped in 9 of her 16 points in the pivotal fourth quarter Saturday night. The second of her two treys in the game came in that final period.

Moses Lake is now 2-2 in conference play, 4-3 overall. The Chiefs, who trailed Sunnyside 37-34 at the half and were outscored by the Lady Grizzlies 18-8 in the third quarter, were led by senior Emily Olson. The 5’11” guard canned a team-best 18 points, eight of those in the fourth-quarter shootout. Moses Lake also got a 13-point effort from 5’8” junior McKenna Walker.

“This was a true team win,” Puente said of the 11-point margin of victory.

“All of our players contributed in one way or another.”

Clinging to just a three-point lead at intermission, Puente said the coaching staff at halftime challenged the Lady Grizzlies to step up their defensive intensity. Responding to that challenge, Sunnyside came out of the gates quickly and forced several turnovers. That ended up translating into the Lady Grizzlies taking a 55-42 lead into the final stanza of play.

“Moses Lake is a good, fundamentally sound team,” said Puente. “The key for us was to take advantage of any opportunities we created for ourselves.”

One night earlier, on Eisenhower’s home floor, Sunnyside bolted to a 13-5 first-quarter lead. Building the advantage to 31-16 at the half, the Lady Grizzlies salted the game away with a 17-3 third-period scoring burst enroute to the final 55-28 score.

The Cadets, whom Puente describe as young and inexperienced, are now 1-5 on the season after also losing to Wenatchee on Saturday.

The best individual effort Ike could muster against Sunnyside was 5’9” junior Zara Rodriguez’s 7-point performance.

Sunnyside had three players in double figures against Ike – Rodriguez with 13 points, and Natalia Bazan and Maldonado with 12 and 11, respectively. Rodriguez also swiped the ball seven times from the Cadets, while Summer Hazzard led a very balanced rebounding effort for the winners with her three boards.

The Lady Grizzlies will get in a couple of practice sessions over the holiday break before hosting a non-league game against the winless Prosser Mustangs on Friday, Jan. 3.

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