NAPAVINE — It was a seven-point game through most of the first three and a half quarters between league rivals Napavine and Rainier, but after a slew of Mountaineers turnovers, missed shots, and other miscues, and some Tiger fastbreak points, Napavine pulled it out, 57-40, to open the new year.
The Tigers’ (5-1, 2-0 C2BL) win snapped the Mountaineers’ (7-2, 1-1 C2BL) seven-game win streak.
“I was happy with our defense, that’s our identity, we’re a grind-it-out kind of team,” Tigers coach Rex Stanley said. “They have some shooters, they can score in bunches, but I thought we did a good job of controlling (Ian) Sprouffske and the other guys around him, they couldn’t get into a rhythm.”
Napavine held Rainier to under 30% shooting as a team, and star guard Ian Sprouffske had just nine points on 4 of 20 shooting from the field in the loss. No Mountaineer finished in double figures, and they turned it over 14 times.
“We fought really hard, unfortunately we couldn’t get the runs we wanted,” assistant coach Dalton Delio said. “We got some big buckets, some important buckets, but turnovers killed us. We couldn’t string together our runs. Offensively we never really got into a rhythm.”
The Tigers were led by James Grose’s 20 points, with most of those coming in the second half off of Mountaineer turnovers, including a fastbreak and-one layup that was the turning point of the game in the fourth quarter.
Keith Olson had another double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds to round out Napavine’s double-digit contributors in the scoring column.
“Offensively it was a bit scattered, but as long as we kept getting stops, we were going to be okay,” Stanley said.
The win was huge for the Tigers, who are still perfect in league and need every one to try and compete for a conference crown again after a runner-up finish last year. Going up against one of the hottest teams in the area Tuesday, Napavine did everything it needed to pull out a gritty win and continue their march through league.
“You have to win at home,” Stanley said. “The tough games just keep coming in this league, it’s going to be a battle game-in and game-out.”
The Tigers will play next against Ilwaco in a non-league contest on Thursday.
The Mountaineers, which suffered just their second defeat of the season and their first in league play, were upset, but not discouraged after the loss. Delio said that a tough lesson like Tuesday’s defeat could be just what they need after a strong run through non-league play.
“In the future we’re going to see physical teams, it was a good eye-opener,” he said. “There are some things we have to work on, like getting more physical and taking care of the ball. There’s a lot of season left, we have the whole season to look forward to. We’re going to turn the page and get ready to rock tomorrow.”
The Mountaineers will look to rebound against Morton-White Pass on Thursday at home.
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