After a second straight sluggish start to open the postseason, the Rainier High School girls basketball team dominated the second half against Raymond-South Bend en route to a 70-48 win in the 2B District 4 quarterfinals on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Montesano High School.
In the first round on Saturday, the Mountaineers trailed Morton-White Pass through the first quarter before winning by 23. While they led through the first period Tuesday night, it was still a start that was not up to par with head coach Brandon Eygabroad’s standard.
“It’s just districts, the environment and the nerves. You can see us settle in more and more as the game goes on and they’re not even thinking out there,” Eygabroad said of the opening-quarter jitters. “That’s where we want to get to as soon as we step on the court, but it’s nice that we get to it eventually.”
The Mountaineers were plagued early by turnovers and fouls but led 19-10 after Haleigh Hanson banked in a layup at the buzzer. Rainier also nailed three triples in the first eight minutes, including two from Bryn Beckman.
Both teams traded baskets to start the second quarter before Angelica Askey took control offensively, scoring 8 points in the period. The Mountaineers defense, engineered by Askey and junior guard Brooklynn Swenson, clamped down on the Ravens’ attempt to pull within one possession to close out the half. The duo ripped the ball away from a Ravens ball-handler, and Swenson dashed down the floor for another buzzer-beating layup to give Rainier a 33-26 halftime lead.
“We’re locked in. Defense is probably the main part of our team, and our defense leads into our offense,” Askey said.
The second half was a prime example of Eygabroad’s standard, especially in the third quarter. In less than five minutes, the Mountaineers’ 7-point lead ballooned to 20 thanks to a 15-2 run. Rainier canned three more 3-pointers in the third quarter and four in the fourth to seal the 70-48 win. Askey finished with a game-high 25 points, and Swenson provided 18 points and four assists. Beckman packed the stat sheet with 13 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists. The trio combined to make all 10 of the team’s 3-pointers on just 21 attempts.
“We had really good ball movement. We’re always on the same page and we always know where we’re gonna go,” Askey said of the offense.
Eygabroad added that the Mountaineers making extra passes led to their 10 made triples, many of which were open. Overall, they shot 46% from the field and dished 19 assists on 29 field goals.
Rainier advances to the 2B District 4 semifinals, where it will face a familiar foe in Central 2B League top seed Adna for the third time this season. The Mountaineers knocked off the Pirates in Adna on Dec. 8, dealing them their first league loss at home in five years. But the Pirates, led by C2BL MVP Karsyn Freeman, got their revenge on Jan. 26, spoiling Rainier’s senior night and chances for the two seed in the district tournament.
“They came and beat us at our house, so I know my girls will be hungry and ready to go for that one,” Eygabroad said of Adna. “We’ve got to not only prepare for them but continue to improve, stay in shape, work on our execution and just fine tune as the week goes on.”
With a state tournament berth on the line, the two C2BL powerhouse teams will square off on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at Kelso High School at 6 p.m. The victor will clinch a spot in Spokane and advance to the district title game on Saturday, Feb. 17 at W.F. West High School. The loser will fall to the losers bracket with a chance to take third in districts.
The Mountaineers, who finished third in districts last season after narrowly falling to Napavine in the semis, are motivated to advance to the title game.
“I’m looking forward to the moment. It’s going to be a good game,” Askey said.