ADNA — The Rainier girls basketball team made its wish list in the offseason, and when the schedule came out, the Mountaineers found out they’d be getting one of their presents early.
“We marked this one down, and it was one we wanted to check off the list,” head coach Brandon Eygabroad said.
It was a rematch with Adna that Rainier wanted, after losing to the Pirates twice by single digits. Friday, the Mountaineers got their shot, and announced their intentions as true Central 2B League contenders with a 52-49 win.
“We’ve been working this whole season towards this game,” junior guard Angelica Askey said. “This was one of our big targets, so I’m glad that we won.”
Rainier jumped out to a 10-point lead four minutes into the first quarter, but Adna began to claw its way back. The game stayed in single-digits for the final 27 minutes, and spent the entire second half within five points either way.
In that setting — in a hostile environment in front of a raucous crowd — last year, Rainier faded at the first sign of an Adna run. This time around, things went differently. When the Pirates (3-1, 0-1 C2BL) went on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to one point early in the second quarter, the Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0 C2BL) answered to get it back to six. When Adna came out of halftime and went on a 17-6 run to take a five-point lead with a minute left, Rainier came back with a Brooklynn Swenson 3-pointer and an Askey floater to tie things back up at 37-37.
“It’s the mental toughness,” Eygabroad said. “We’ve been preaching it every day in practice. We want to get mentally tougher each day for ourselves, but also mentally tougher than them. So when they hit a big shot, we’re not phased. When we do make a mistake, we’re moving on to the next play.”
And down the stretch, Askey showed up, scoring 10 of Rainier’s 17 points to finish with a team-high 16 on the night.
“Late in the game we were setting high pick-and-rolls for her, and she did a really good job of making the right decisions,” Eygabroad said.
The junior also dished out four assists, took away four steals and came down with six rebounds.
And behind Askey, the rest of the Rainier cast showed up. Swenson had 11 points, four steals and two assists, hitting a crucial free throw late to give the Mountaineers a bit of breathing room. Bryn Beckman only had seven points but led the way on the glass with seven rebounds.
Perhaps most importantly for Rainier, Haleigh Hansen turned in 14 points on 7-for-12 shooting in the post, winning the battle down low when the Pirates had to focus on the Mountaineers’ guards.
“She can dominate,” Eygabroad said. “She had a really good game today. It was a little shaky here and there … but she rose to the occasion. That’s what I’m asking of her.”
Eygabroad needed all of that from everybody, because on the other side of things, Karsyn Freeman put on one of the best performances of the winter thus far.
With the Adna offense stuck in the mud for the entirety of the first quarter, the Raymond transfer put the Pirates on her back, scoring 22 points in the second half to finish with a game-high 31.
“She just brings a different ability than a lot of girls can around this area,” Adna coach Chris Bannish said.
Down the stretch, the game turned into a duel of the No. 4s. When Askey drove to finish at the bucket to make it 43-39, Freeman took the inbounds and did her one better, driving coast-to-coast to beat everybody down the floor and making a layup through a foul for a three-point play — only for Askey to come back and hit another shot.
After Askey made two more buckets on back-to-back possessions, Freeman drilled her fourth 3-pointer of the game, cutting the gap to 51-49 with 50 seconds left.
The Pirates got a steal on the ensuing inbounds, but Gaby Guard’s 3-pointer spun rattled around and out before going out of bounds — and the referees ruled it had been last touched by Adna. Three fouls later, Swenson made it 52-49, and Freeman’s last-second chance to tie the game hit back iron.
It’s Adna’s first home loss to a 2B side since January 2018.
Kendall Humphrey had seven points to go along with seven rebounds for the Pirates. Bailey Chapman had six boards, three steals and a block.
The win pushes Rainier into the C2BL’s driver’s seat, along with Napavine. The Mountaineers still have to play the Tigers, on Jan. 9 — and a week later, will have to line up against Adna again in a second matchup.
“Now they’re marking down Rainier on their calendar,” Eygabroad said. “We’ve got to still be hungry and still get after it to get better every day.”