RAINIER — The Rainier girls basketball team came away with a marquee non-league win Tuesday at home, welcoming Neah Bay to the Nisqually Valley and promptly sending the defending 1B state champions back up the peninsula with a 56-41 loss.
“I was really, really satisfied with how the girls came out and competed tonight,” Rainier coach Brandon Eygabroad said.
Neah Bay came out strong and held a 16-12 lead after a quarter of play, but the Mountaineers (3-0) responded by holding them to just one field goal in the entire second quarter, and didn’t allow their guests a run larger than 4-0 the entire rest of the game.
And crucially, Neah Bay went without a 3-pointer for the final 29 minutes of the game.
“Our emphasis was to run them off the three-point line and then do our best to help recover,” Eygabroad said. “I thought we did a great job defensively to put them out of their game.”
On the flip side, the Mountaineers got into their game as the night wore on, and showed off just about all of the weapons they have at their disposal.
It started with Haleigh Hanson, one of just two seniors on the team, going to work down low for easy buckets. It didn’t take long for Neah Bay to collapse down low, and soon, the rest of the rest of the floor opened up.
“She’s taking her time, she’s looking to hit some cutters off of her, which is real nice, we’ve been working on that all summer,” Eygabroad said. “I keep telling her, when it finally, fully clicks, she could be a real problem for the rest of the C2BL.”
With the Neah Bay defense focusing inside, Rainier’s guards went to work. Bryn Beckman scored 10 of her game-high 21 points in the second quarter, hitting a pair of 3-pointers after the hosts opened the period on a 10-0 run in which four different players scored.
Angelica Askey joined in on the fun down the stretch, with Brooklynn Swenson helping facilitate everything the whole way, and leading the Rainier press to turn defense into offense.
“It’s really nice,” Eygabroad said. “You have three shooters, three ball-handlers, three people who can create off pick-and-rolls and find their teammates for open shots. They really play well off of each other.”
After Rainier won the middle two quarters 29-12, building up a 13-point lead by the end of the third, Neah Bay threw one last roll of the dice and came out in a 2-3 zone to open the fourth. Askey and Beckman proceeded to drill two 3-pointers apiece, getting the lead out to 53-36 with four minutes to go, and the zone defense went away.
Beckman finished with 10 rebounds to cap a double-double, and also had three steals and three assists. Askey added 16 points — she and Beckman combined to go 8 for 15 from beyond the arc — with four steals and four assists, while Swenson also dished out four assists.
Anika Plowman added six points, four rebounds and three steals.
For Eygabroad the win — Rainier’s third already this season over teams that made their respective state tournaments last season — is a sign of how far his side has come over the course of the offseason.
“I always tell the girls that we’re always a work in progress, and we always have room to improve,” he said. “But they were young last year, majority sophomores and two juniors, and this year you can see that the experience is there a little bit more, the confidence is there more.
“They’re stepping onto the court, and our biggest thing is ‘Make them play how we want to play, not play to their thing.’”
The big test for the Mountaineers will come Friday, with a Central 2B League opener at Adna. Last year, Rainier went 0-4 against Adna and Napavine — who once again come into the year as preseason favorites — on four single-digit losses.