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Gonzaga Prep boys cruise past Sunnyside in 4A regional clash

Eighth-seeded Sunnyside, out of the Big Nine conference, had not qualified for a state tournament in 28 years.

The Grizzlies might rethink the benefit, considering they drew the No. 1 team in the state in the regional round.

Sunnyside ran into a buzz saw on Friday as Gonzaga Prep built a 20-2 lead after the first quarter and never let up.

Greater Spokane League MVP Anton Watson scored 25 points and top-seeded Gonzaga Prep (24-0) routed Sunnyside (19-4) 80-44 in a 4A regional game at University HS on Friday.

Gonzaga Prep plays in a state quarterfinal on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Tacoma Dome. Sunnyside faces a state first-round elimination game on Wednesday at 9 p.m.

Sunnyside was the No. 2 seed from the District 6 tournament and its three losses this season – previous to Friday – all came against Big Nine champ Davis, which lost 86-61 to District 8 second-place Richland on Friday.

Jamaari Jones finished with 15 points for the Bullpups and Liam Lloyd added 10, including a pair of 3-pointers in that first-quarter blitz.

Art Palacios led Sunnyside with 14 points.

“We always come out to dominate,” senior Sam Lockett said. “We’re always going to come out and do our best, and if you can’t stop us that’s how it’s going to go.”

“It’s always nice in a game like that to get everybody some good, hard-fought minutes,” G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “First group did great at the start of the game. Great focus, good energy.”

The Bullpups got up quickly. Lloyd drilled a 3-pointer, Jones picked up a layup off a fastbreak and they worked it inside to Watson for an easy layup and 7-0 lead.

Sunnyside coach Bruce Siebol called a timeout barely 2 minutes into the game. It didn’t help.

“They were really good defensively and shut down our scorers right away,” Siebol said. “We struggled with that. We struggled with their athleticism and their intensity right from the get-go.”

Watson scored on two more fastbreak layups and Lloyd hit another 3 from the top of the key. Gonzaga Prep led 16-0 at the first-quarter media timeout.

Trey Sanchez finally broke up the shutout with a layup with about 2 minutes left in the quarter.

Two more buckets by Jones and the Bullpups led 20-2 after the first quarter.

“They have some athletes,” Siebol said. “You could see their athleticism compared to ours. It was noticeable, and I think our kids struggled with that – the tempo of the game – right away.”

“We held them to two points in the first quarter,” Watson said. “That’s our main emphasis – defense. We locked down on their two guards because they’re quick and good shooters.”

Gonzaga Prep looked to run on every miss and that generated more easy baskets in transition at the start of the second. Watson converted a three-point play and added another fastbreak layup, while Jones made a nifty move for a reverse layup.

Gonzaga Prep led 32-5 at the second-quarter media timeout.

“I’m sure they had a hard time matching up to our bigs,” McIntyre said. “They were undersized. Their game plan was to run and hopefully make some 3s. We were anticipating that.

“I thought we countered their transition offense by doing a great job matching up on the defensive end.”

Watson got loose for nine points in the third, including an alley-oop dunk from a feed by Sam Lockett on the fastbreak.

“Me and Sam, we’ve got that connection,” Watson said. “I’ll look to him and sometimes he just knows to throw it up there. I just went up and got it. It was a fun play.”

G-Prep led by 36 points after three quarters and went to the backups for the entire fourth quarter.

“I thought our second team did great in the fourth quarter,” McIntyre said. “They competed and the game never got sloppy. We still executed our stuff. It was an entire team win.”

Asked what the game plan for Tacoma was, Watson was succinct.

“Just win. One game at a time. And stay focused. We’re on the top spot and everyone wants to beat us.”