Mountaineers get revenge on Pirates in district semis to clinch state berth

Rainier outlasted Adna thanks to its poised veterans


All season long, the Rainier High School girls basketball team has locked in on preparing for February and March. Whether it was keeping the starters on the floor while up by 50 in non-league play or going toe-to-toe against Adna at the 2B District 4 tournament semifinals, the standard was always the same.

The Mountaineers’ preparation for the big stage paid off, as they knocked off the Central 2B League’s top seed Adna, 49-44, on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at Kelso High School. They clinched a spot in both the district title game on Saturday, Feb. 17 against Napavine and the state tournament.

“It’s obviously hard to describe the emotions and time that goes into it. It’s a really long season, and these girls come to work every single day,” Rainier head coach Brandon Eygabroad said after the game.

Rainier locked the Pirates’ high-octane offense down from the tip, forcing shot clock violations and tough shots from the outside. Junior Bryn Beckman, always dependable on the big stages, delivered eight unanswered points to close the first quarter with the Mountaineers on top, 12-8.

The second quarter was all about responding to the opponent’s blows, as Adna first grabbed the lead after five quick points and Rainier answered with seven unanswered of its own. The Pirates, led by C2BL MVP Karsyn Freeman, dominated the final five minutes of the quarter, dropping 13 straight points to race into the locker room with a 26-19 halftime lead.

Just 56 seconds into the second half, the Mountaineers found themselves in a 10-point hole against the league’s top seed, with the Adna faithful as loud as could be. Rainier responded with a season-defining stretch, scoring the next 14 points to take a 33-29 lead and sway the momentum dramatically. Five different Mountaineers scored in that span, and Rainier held Adna scoreless for nearly five minutes.

“We just went back to playing our game, not letting them speed us up. I kept telling them, ‘Hey, we’re here. We’re not getting too high. We’re not getting too low. We are playing our game,’” Eygabroad said of the run. “‘They do not disrupt us. We are dictating what we do on offense, and on defense, we’re just getting after it.’”

Rainier confined Adna to just five points in the third quarter and entered the fourth with a 37-31 lead. Once again, the two C2BL powerhouses went blow for blow; Adna drew within two points before Beckman canned a triple with six minutes remaining.

The Pirates had the Mountaineers on the ropes halfway through the fourth, as Rainier clung to a 40-39 lead without starter Janess Blackburn, who fouled out.

Beckman came through in the clutch, securing an offensive rebound off of a missed Brooklynn Swenson jumper and laying in the putback to make it 42-39 with over two minutes to go.

Rainier clamped down on Adna to force another shot clock violation, and senior Haleigh Hanson’s jumper with 1 minute and 14 seconds remaining pushed the lead to five.

Angelica Askey delivered clutch free throw after clutch free throw in the final minute, and after a rare miss, Beckman swooped in again to rip away the offensive rebound from the Pirates. From there, with a six-point lead and only 35 seconds remaining, the Mountaineer fans in the stands could taste the victory, which the team eventually clinched, 49-44.

Askey finished with 18 points, and Beckman delivered her second-straight double-double in the district tournament with 16 points and 11 rebounds. On defense, the Mountaineers held Freeman to just six points in the second half after she dropped 16 in the first. They contained Adna to 30.2% shooting from the field and just 4 of 33 from distance. Rainier also pulled down 41 rebounds to Adna’s 30.

The Mountaineers, who fell in the district semifinals last year and fought their way into the state tournament after clinching third in districts, celebrated winning on their terms by showering Eygabroad with water in the locker room. The victory was extra sweet for the Mountaineers, as they exacted revenge on the team that spoiled their senior night on Jan. 26. Rainier (22-2, 11-2 C2BL) snapped Adna's (21-2, 12-1 C2BL) 18-game winning streak and is the only team to defeat the Pirates, as they also beat them on the road on Dec. 8.

“Everyone was super excited. We’ve never experienced something like this. We all played together, so we were super happy,” Beckman said. “I’m really proud. In the end, we all trust each other. We don’t make any moment too big and we focus on things that we can control.”

Every practice and every game, no matter the opponent, led to Tuesday’s win and a shot at the district title on Saturday night, when the Mountaineers will face the C2BL’s No. 2 seed Napavine at 6 p.m. at W.F. West High School.

“All of our blood, sweat and tears have gone into this moment,” Beckman said.