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Sunnyside girls dancing toward Tacoma Dome following regional round upset of Chiawana

Grizzlies win fourth consecutive loser-out game thanks to a late Benemi Sanchez scoop shot

RICHLAND, Wash. — Sunnyside seniors gave head coach Rick Puentes their word before the 2021-22 season started that no matter what happened, their year would end in the Tacoma Dome.

So on Friday night, shortly after punching its ticket in upset fashion, all senior guard Benemi Sanchez could do was smile and repeat the reality she set in motion.

"We're going to state now," Sanchez said with a wide-eyed grin.

It was Sanchez's rebound and go-ahead scoop shot that fueled the 15-seed Grizzlies' 52-51 win over 10-seed Chiawana in a 4A regional elimination game, their fourth consecutive victory facing with the end of the season on the line.

The setting Friday — Richland High School's Dawald Gym — fit the moment, too. Because of the neighboring proximity of both fan bases, the gym was filled to the gills, too, with Grizzlies fans pouring onto the court and lingering on the hardwood in celebration.

(READ: Class 4A girls basketball regional preview: Is Woodinville finally ready to take finishing step?)

The finish, dramatic as it was, stemmed equal parts elation and heartbreak. Chiawana senior guard A'Niyah Heavens took the inbound after Sanchez's go-ahead bucket, sped the length of the court and released a contested layup that rimmed off as the final horn sounded.

Sunnyside's on-court celebration proved premature. Officials whistled for a foul on Heavens' last look, which sent her to the free throw line for two shots with 0.6 seconds left on the clock, down one.

Both attempts rimmed off and the Grizzlies swarmed mid-court in jubilee.

Puente praised his team's resolve Friday night and its ability to remain focused on its ultimate goal throughout the peaks and valleys of the season. The Grizzlies beat Eisenhower in a winner-to-state district third place game on Feb. 19.

Most impressively, undersized Sunnyside held Chiawana's 6-foot-2 standout freshman Malia Ruud — the crown jewel of the Riverhawks' talent-laden 2025 class — to two points in the fourth quarter. Ruud was still a force, finishing with 22 through double-teams and persistent ball denials.

The Grizzlies (13-11) finished third in the Big 9 standings and beat Eastmont, Davis and Eisenhower in loser-out district games to reach the regional round.

"Hats off to the girls, they went out and performed, went out and played, they did the little things," Puente said. "That's all we ask for as coaches."

Sunnyside advanced to play the winner of Richland and Sumner, which play at noon Saturday, in the first round of the 4A state tournament in the Tacoma Dome on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

"COVID year hit me hard and I was like, my senior year, we're going to state, I want to go to state," Sanchez said. "We worked really hard as a team and now we're going to state."

Chiawana, the Mid-Columbia Conference runners up, finishes the season 17-7.

Here are photos from the game: