WALLA WALLA — With Sunnyside Christian holding a 21-point lead midway through the third quarter, DeSales girls basketball coach Tim Duncan half expected his team to simply throw in the towel.
“I thought our kids had a chance to really fold, (but) they really battled back,” Duncan said. “I’m really proud of them.”
Instead, the Irish cut the Sunnyside Christian lead to nine during the final frame.
The rally ultimately fell short, as DeSales fell, 61-50, on Tuesday.
It was only fitting that senior Ashlyn Lyons, on senior night, led the Irish charge with a game-high 21 points.
But Lyons struggled through the first half, as she finished with only four points on 1-of-10 shooting heading into halftime.
“She took the ball to the hole with authority in the first half, so they were respecting that,” Duncan said. “They were dropping off and she got about any look she wanted from the perimeter.”
With Lyons flanking the wing, DeSales (15-4, 9-1 in Southeast 2B) went to work midway through the third quarter. The Irish push started with a Lyons’ 3-pointer to cut the Knights’ lead to 20. DeSales followed that with 9-0 run capped with an Emily Baumgart putback as the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter.
With more confidence in her shots, Lyons found her footing in the fourth. She connected on three of her five 3-pointers in the final quarter, as guard Teresa Acock added two of her own during the same stretch.
Duncan said DeSales’ work on the offensive glass, led by Hannah Leahy’s team-high 12 rebounds, was a big reason for the Irish turnaround.
“That was huge,” he said. “We got a lot of second and third looks in the second half that really helped us. Our kids really competed with them on the offensive boards.”
But DeSales simply had its hands full with Sunnyside Christian’s Stormee Van Belle, who finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. DeSales had trouble matching up with Van Belle, a 6-foot post, after senior Allison Wujek picked up her second foul midway through the opening quarter.
With Wujek relegated to the bench, the Irish switched into a zone defense in order to pack the paint and try to slow down Van Belle.
“We were going to play about 50 percent zone anyway, just because we had matchup issues elsewhere,” Duncan said. “(Foul trouble) forced us to play a lot more zone, which I think our girls did a good job. This is the most zone we’ve played all year combined.”
But just as DeSales switched its defense, Van Belle began distributing. She found Annie Brouwer for two open 3s before adding a bucket of her own to open up a 40-19 lead midway through the third quarter.
Sunnyside Christian finished the game with nine 3-pointers, which Duncan said was partly due to the pack-the-paint mentality.
“They don’t shoot a lot of 3s, although they took a few more — that surprised me in the second half,” Duncan said. “They knocked them down, which kind of hurt us. We were trying to stay inside and guard everything inside the 3-point line.”
DeSales recognized three players on senior night — Lyons, Wujek and Claire Conley. All three have been four-year varsity players under Duncan during their Irish careers.
“We’re going to miss them,” he said of his seniors. “I don’t know what else to say. I’ve been blessed having been able to coach them.”
The Irish will now prepare for the Southeast 2B playoffs, which starts this weekend. DeSales owns the top seed in the league and will host the tournament Friday and Saturday. The Irish play the winner of tonight’s tilt in Asotin against Walla Walla Valley Academy at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“This is the best team we’re going to play maybe all the way to the state tournament,” Duncan said of Sunnyside Christian. “To compete with them the way we did, being in foul trouble, all things considered, that’s a good thing going forward.”
Sunnyside Christian 61, DeSales 50
SUNNYSIDE CHRISTIAN (61) — Banks 3-7 0-4 7, Broersma 0-4 0-0 0, Brouwer 6-11 0-0 15, Van Belle 6-15 5-6 19, Williams 6-10 0-0 14, Harrington 1-2 0-0 3, Dalrymple 1-3 1-2 3. Totals 23-52 6-12 61.
DESALES (50) — Leahy 1-4 1-4 3, Baumgart 5-14 3-3 14, Acock 3-16 0-0 8, Lyons 7-22 2-2 21, Conley 0-0 0-1 0, Wujek 2-5 0-0 4, Deal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-61 6-10 50.
S-C 19 13 13 16 — 61
DeSales 12 5 14 19 — 50
3-point goals — S-C 9 (Brouwer 3, Van Belle 2, Williams 2, Harringon, Banks), DeS — 8 (Lyons 5, Acock 2, Baumgart). Total fouls — S-C 11, DeS 13. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — DeS (bench). Total rebounds — S-C 24 (Van Belle 14), DeS 28 (Leahy 12). Turnovers — S-C 8, DeS 11. Assists — S-C 17 (Van Belle 5, Brouwer 5), DeS 7 (Leahy 3).