Mountaineers fall short of district title in loss to Tigers

Rainier’s district run ends at the hands of Napavine again


The Rainier High School girls basketball team had a chance to complete a revenge tour of the only two teams to beat it en route to its first district title in 13 years.

After knocking off top-seeded Adna on Tuesday, Feb. 13, the Mountaineers had to settle for half a leg of the revenge tour as Napavine clinched the 2B District 4 title, 46-39, over Rainier on Saturday, Feb. 17 at W.F. West High School. It marked the second time the Mountaineers have come up short against the Tigers this season, the first coming at Napavine on Jan. 9, and the second year in a row the Tigers knocked Rainier out of the district tournament.

Similarly to the first meeting this season, Rainier was forced to slug it out with Napavine in a low-scoring battle between two state heavyweights. Scoring was at a premium early, as each team could only muster up 11 points through the first quarter. Junior guard Brooklynn Swenson fueled the Mountaineers with the first seven points of the night.

Points were even more seldom in the second quarter, with both teams combining to score a dozen in the quarter. The packed house at W.F. West High School was treated to a defensive battle; no pass or shot attempt was easy and the shot clock buzzer broke a sweat. Rainier held a halftime lead, 18-16, with Swenson claiming half of its points.

The first offensive spark of the night went to the Tigers, who jumped on the Mountaineers with 10 unanswered points to open up the second half. Janess Blackburn’s four fouls were costly as Rainier was without one of its defensive aces, whom Mountaineers head coach Brandon Eygabroad praised for her defense against Central 2B All-League first team selection Hayden Kaut.

“She was doing a really nice job guarding her, but unfortunately she got a couple of ticky tack calls along the way,” he said of Blackburn.

Four minutes into the second half, the Mountaineers trailed by nine after leading by two heading into the locker room. Rainier had uncharacteristic possessions on offense, with limited ball movement and questionable shot attempts. Swenson, who scored 13 on the night, helped the Mountaineers gain some ground with a couple of quick buckets, but the Tigers led 35-27 through the third quarter.

Bryn Beckman, one of Rainier’s most reliable scoring options, was held scoreless entering the fourth. She finally found the bottom of the net on a 3-point attempt with over five minutes left to cut the margin to five, but that was as close as the Mountaineers could get.

Angelica Askey, who finished with a team-high 14 points, banked in a triple as the buzzer sounded, but the shot couldn’t help Rainier earn its first district title since it went back to back in 2010-11.

“It hurts, and it should hurt. We put a lot of time into it. They’re definitely feeling it, but we’ve got to bounce back,” Eygabroad said. 

The Mountaineers (22-3, 11-2 C2BL) await their opponent for their regional matchup and their seeding for the state tournament. Regardless of who they play, Eygabroad said his players will focus on improving themselves first.

“I told the girls, ‘Look, it’s a new season. Everyone is zero and zero, and it’s four or five games and that’s all it takes. There’s no time for feeling sorry for ourselves,’” he said. “We don’t know who we play or where we play, but we’re gonna be ready.”