Mountaineers can’t climb out of early hole, lose against Bears


RAINIER — Just seven minutes into Rainier’s matchup with Brewster, the Mountaineers trailed by 16. The second quarter wasn’t much kinder, as Rainier entered halftime down 21.

The Mountaineers came out of the gate strong and played well in the second quarter, but that deficit was too big to overcome, and Rainier was handed a 66-57 loss on Saturday afternoon.

“That’s a quality program,” Rainier coach Ben Sheaffer said. “We showed a lot of resilience and toughness in the second half, which I was super proud of. They’ve got some great players over there. We battled, and we competed.”

In the first half, the Mountaineers (7-3, 3-1 C2BL) struggled with the size of Brewster inside, as the 6-foot, 5-inch Cort Gebbers and 6-foot, 4-inch Karden Gebbers hauled in several offensive rebounds that led to second- and third-chance points for Brewster. 

In the first two quarters, the Bears won the rebound battle 28-11, and Brady Wulf scored 18 points.

“Clearly, they have a size advantage,” Sheaffer said. “It’s demoralizing when they get an offensive rebound and then a kick out to Wulf, who is one of the best shooters I’ve seen. As soon as it leaves his hand, you feel like it’s going in.”

The Mountaineers had more success in the second half, not only on the glass but on the scoreboard. There was a concerted effort to crash the boards, and they actually won the rebound battle 19-18 in the second half.

“I told the guys at halftime, sometimes it’s not a matter of size, it’s a matter of want,” Sheaffer said. “And we wanted to rebound the ball in the second half … We did a much better job just being physical.”

Defensively, Rainier had more success as well after the break, as they focused on a zone defense that allowed them to better account for Brewster’s size inside.

It wasn’t a foolproof plan, as Wulf and Mario Gamacho took advantage of the extra space on the perimeter, but they limited the Bears to just 23 points in the second half.

“When Wulf is shooting it from as far away as he was, it’s really hard to guard that in a zone defense,” Sheaffer said.

Offensively, Josh Meldrum led the way for Rainier, scoring 23 points, while Jake Meldrum scored 10.

The Mountaineers finish 1-1 against Mabton and Brewster, the two east-side schools they hosted along with Napavine in this week’s east-west doubleheader.

While Sheaffer did note that the games serve as a nice “measuring stick” for the programs, he also joked that it was nice to go up against some different competition.

“We end up playing a lot of the same teams over and over, even in the summer,” Sheaffer said with a smile. “It seems like we play Toledo six times a year.”

The Mountaineers are now off until after Christmas, and they’ll return to action on Dec. 29 at North Beach.