Talk about finding confidence in failure – that is what the No. 2 Sunnyside High School girls basketball team found late in the third quarter.
And they rode that newfound poise to a stunning 55-46 loser-out victory Wednesday over eighth-ranked Auburn Riverside in the Class 4A state tournament in the Tacoma Dome.
Emilee Maldonado scored a game-high 26 points to outduel fellow pint-sized guard McKenzi Williams, of the Ravens, who had 24 points.
Sunnyside (19-3) moves on to face No. 3 Glacier Peak on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
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For the Ravens, it was a heartbreaking way to see their season end, especially after controlling much of the game.
Their zone defense was working so well, Sunnyside missed 19 of its first 20 3-point attempts – a lot of them coming from NBA range.
And after Williams converted a three-point play to hand the Ravens (20-7) a 33-18 lead with 2:46 remaining in the third quarter, Auburn Riverside coach Christian Miller decided to give his standout guard a quick breather.
Fifty-one seconds later, Maldonado canned a 3-pointer.
The Ravens’ bench did not bat an eye.
But on the next Sunnyside trip, Ashlee Maldonado – Emilee’s sister – hit another 3-pointer.
Miller motioned for Williams to get back into the game.
But it did not matter – the Grizzlies kept hitting. In fact, they made seven 3-pointers in a row to fuel a whopping 24-0 run in a five-minute span.
“They got really hot,” Miller said. “They were knocking them down from deep – with hands in their faces.”
By the time Sunnyside wrapped up its deep shooting exhibition – Jessica Mendoza’s 3-pointer was the last of seven in a row – the Grizzlies had a 45-36 lead with 4:22 remaining.
“Some of those times, our shots are not falling,” Emilee Maldonado said. “But we have to find a way to make it back. We kept our heads in the game, and did not let down. That is what pulled out the win.”