Mountaineers upset by Ducks in 2B Round of 12

Rainier lost three straight games to close the season


SPOKANE — A season packed with high expectations and dominance concluded rapidly for the Rainier High School girls basketball team, as the fifth-seeded Mountaineers lost to 12th seed Toutle Lake, 48-46, in the 2B State Tournament Round of 12 in Spokane on Wednesday, Feb. 28.

Rainier, which began the season 22-2 entering the 2B District 4 Tournament title game against Napavine, finished the year with three straight postseason losses. 

The Mountaineers and Ducks played a narrow contest, with neither team leading by more than seven points at any point. Rainier stormed out of the gate with a 7-0 run, holding Toutle Lake without a point for the first four minutes. The Ducks responded with a 7-2 run to knot the score at 9-9 after one.

For the first time in their last five quarters, the Mountaineers surpassed double-digit points in a quarter with 12 in the second. But Toutle Lake scored 13 to take a 22-21 lead at halftime. Rainier, which hadn’t scored more than 49 points since Feb. 6, continued to struggle offensively with sloppy turnovers and a deficit of open shots.

“As you get through the season, the defenses get tougher and tougher and the games mean more and more,” Rainier head coach Brandon Eygabroad said of his team’s offensive struggles at the end of the season.

After the Ducks opened up a six-point lead early in the third, the Mountaineers finally found a spark on offense, outscoring their opponent 16-8 over the last six minutes in the third. Rainier’s ball-handlers found senior post Haleigh Hanson often, and she converted with a pair of baskets to tie the game. Junior Bryn Beckman nailed a triple to give Rainier its first lead of the second half, and the Mountaineers entered the fourth with a 37-35 lead.

Rainier appeared poised to seal the game early in the fourth, as Brooklynn Swenson and Angelica Askey shined on both ends of the floor to extend the lead to four. In the final 4 minutes and 42 seconds, Toutle Lake outplayed Rainier on both ends. After two Rainier turnovers and two buckets from Toutle Lake's Lainey Dean, Ducks eighth grader Paisley Fraidenburg delivered a clutch 3-pointer to give her team a 47-43 lead with just over a minute remaining.

Swenson, who finished with 11 points, kept the Mountaineers in it with a quick triple out of a timeout, but the Mountaineers let most of the clock run out in the final minute. The Ducks put the game away with a free throw and an offensive rebound on a miss to punch their ticket to the state quarterfinals and send Rainier home early. Askey scored a game-high 17 points, while Payton Thayer led the Ducks with 14.

“When you get to this level, it’s all about defense and rebounding. In the last four minutes, we needed one or two more stops, but they made some tough shots,” Eygabroad said.

Rainier was visibly emotional after the loss, especially seniors Hanson and Lilly Johnson, whose careers come to a close.

“This hurts a lot for them. They put four years in, and they didn’t want their season to end. I feel for them,” Eygabroad said of his seniors. “The amount of commitment and dedication they showed to this team is going to translate to wherever they go beyond basketball.”

The Mountaineers finish with a 22-5 record but will have a strong core of returners next season, including Swenson, Askey and Beckman. While he admitted that the tough finish to this season still stings, he is excited for the future.

“I’m proud of the girls. They showed up every single day to work. They did it together, and that takes a lot. It’s a long season,” Eygabroad said. “It’s gonna be a talented group next year. Those juniors had big goals for this season too, but they should have a fire burning really deep to get back here next year and take care of business.”