Mountaineer girls earn fifth seed at state, place second at districts

Rainier to face reigning 2B state champion to open state play


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

The Mountaineers knocked off Adna, 49-44, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, to punch their ticket to the state tournament. But they 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. It was the second year in a row the Tigers knocked Rainier out of the district tournament.

It was still a successful weekend for the Mountaineers, however, and they punched their ticket to a regional matchup against the reigning 2B state champion, Colfax, to open 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 Adna win.

The victory set up the date with Napavine for the district title on Saturday. For the second time, Rainier slugged it out with Napavine in a low-scoring battle between two state heavyweights. 

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.

Scoring was at a premium early, as each team could only muster 11 points through the first quarter. Junior guard Brooklynn Swenson fueled the Mountaineers with the first seven points of the night.

Points were even fewer in the second quarter, with both teams combining to score 12 in the quarter. Rainier held a halftime lead, 18-16, with Swenson claiming half of its points.

The Tigers lit the first offensive spark of the night when they jumped on the Mountaineers with 10 unanswered points to open the second half. Rainier lost one of its defensive aces to foul trouble when Janess Blackburn picked up her fourth. Eygabroad praised 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. 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.

The Tigers held Bryn Beckman, a reliable scoring option for Rainier, 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 win 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 get some time off before heading to West Valley High School in Spokane Valley for a date with reigning 2B state champion Colfax. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. If the fifth-seeded Mountaineers prevail, they earn a first-round bye and advance to the state quarterfinals on Thursday, Feb. 29. A loss will send them to the round of 12 in a loser-out game on Wednesday, Feb. 28. 

Coming off of a tough loss, Eygabroad said his players will focus on improving themselves first before preparing for their opponent.

“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’re gonna be ready.”