SUNNYSIDE — Sunnyside High School took a moment Wednesday just before basketball practice to celebrate one of its own.

Senior Ashlee Maldonado was center stage in the gym, signing a letter of commitment to Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif.

The Division I school courted her to play basketball, and her family surrounded her for the occasion during which she proudly stated she is looking forward to competing at the college level.

Before ink was placed on the paper, first-year Athletic Director Scott Paine said it’s an honor to have someone playing the sport they love at the collegiate level.

Only 1.2 percent of high school athletes are able move into the college ranks, fewer than that compete at the Division I level, he said.

“It takes a lot of dedication, time and hard work,” Paine said.

Maldonado’s current basketball coach, Rick Puente of Sunnyside High School, said Maldonado is an athlete who has contributed greatly to the program.

He said her strong work ethic will lead her to a good future.

“We’re definitely excited,” Puente said.

Maldonado was grateful to all who were present for the signing, stating there were many present who have supported her throughout her hoops career.

Her family members believed in her and invested much of their time to watching her play.

Her father, Rick Maldonado, was her first coach.

“I have played since I was very young,” Ashlee said.

Getting to the level of a Division I team is an exciting opportunity, she said.

For her senior season at Sunnyside High School, Maldonado hopes the team can return to the Hardwood Classic. She would like to see a placing higher than fourth this year.

As for plans at college, she is not certain yet if she will pursue engineering or optometry, but Maldonado has plans to earn a Master’s degree.

Everyone who has supported her throughout her life was present at Wednesday’s event, just as they have been present for most of her games. They included grandparents, parents, aunts, nieces and nephews and younger siblings.

Maldonado is the second in her immediate family to play basketball at the collegiate level.

Older sister, Emilee Maldonado, signed to University of Providence, formerly University of Great Falls Montana, before her senior season, too. That was two years ago.

Emilee is a sophomore guard for the Argonauts with teammates from Yakima and Kennewick.

Both sisters surpassed the 1,000-point mark, Emilee setting the record in March 2017.

Ashlee scored her 1,000th point last season and is expected to surpass her sister’s record (1,405).

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