Rainier proud of growth and grit despite tough finish

Mountaineers boys end season 13-9, 8-5 in C2BL play


The end of an athletic season is rarely a joyous occasion for most high school teams, as most teams enter the offseason with a sour taste in their mouths. But for Rainier High School’s boys basketball team, the biggest victories weren’t just in the win column.

Head coach Ben Sheaffer led his team to a 13-9 record in 2023-24, including an 8-5 mark against Central 2B League opponents. Both records were an improvement from the previous season, when the Mountaineers went 13-11 overall and 6-7 in league play. They qualified for the district tournament this past season but fell short of a victory in their two outings.

Sheaffer said, while finishing with a 2-5 record in their final seven games was disappointing, he was proud of the Mountaineers’ journey over the course of the season.

“Ultimately, only one team feels really good about the end of the season, and it’s the team that wins it all. But it’s the process and the journey that you feel great about,” Sheaffer said. “These guys had some huge moments on the floor, and then off the floor these guys are friends.”

He highlighted Rainier’s win over Adna on Dec. 14 as the biggest moment of the year, as the Mountaineers had not defeated the Pirates in 15 years. More than anything, however, Sheaffer said he was proudest of how his team competed until the very end, even when games appeared out of hand. Notably, he praised seniors Johnny Boesch and Jared Sprouffske for continuing to fight in the waning moments of their season at the district tournament.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our seniors for that. When you think about that legacy of hard work and grit and toughness, these guys are the face of that,” Sheaffer said. “Even when you felt it slipping away, they continued to battle and play through adversity, which is a testament to their character.”

Sprouffske said he, Boesch and fellow senior John Kenney took it upon themselves to keep their teammates thinking positively along the way when the team was struggling to win games.

“We just tried to keep everyone together and just keep pushing during practice because it can get tough down the stretch,” Sprouffske said.

As the seniors move on from the program, Sheaffer sees a bright future for the Mountaineers in 2024-25, led by Central 2B All-League selections Josh Meldrum, Jake Meldrum and James Meldrum.

“We have a lot of experienced guys coming back. I don’t think we’ll have quite the depth that we’ve had in previous years, but there’s definitely some ability there,” Sheaffer said. “The league will be down a little bit, which might bode well for us. There’s a lot of really talented seniors moving on. Hopefully it’s our opportunity and our time to take that next step. I’m definitely excited to see where we can go this summer as we start to do some team bonding to develop some momentum for next year.”

Boesch added that the team, as well as the school’s athletics as a whole, is building momentum like never before. He grew up watching his siblings play sports at Rainier, but he said the crowd sizes this season were the biggest he has seen.

“There were a lot of games this year where there’s been more people that I’ve ever really seen in the gym. It was really cool to see,” he said.