Mountaineers surrender final 16 points in heartbreaking loss to Mules

Rainier’s six-game win streak is over


With a 57-47 lead in the fourth quarter, Rainier boys basketball coach Ben Sheaffer repeatedly told his team during a timeout to take care of the ball. The Mountaineers broke the huddle with the word, “Finish.”

They did neither of those things in the final three minutes against Central 2B League foe Wahkiakum on Tuesday, Dec. 19. The Mules scored the final 16 points and stunned the Mountaineers, 63-57, to hand them their first loss since the season opener on Nov. 28 against Eatonville.

“We just have to do a better job finishing games and playing with a lead,” Sheaffer said after the loss. “It’s something that we continue to talk about. Unfortunately, we started pointing fingers a little bit and things went downhill from there.”

The contest was tight throughout the first 29 minutes, with neither team leading by double digits during that span. Rainier fell behind in the early minutes, 6-2, but quickly responded with nine straight points. Joshua Meldrum was a force in the first half, knocking down mid-range jumpers and scoring in the lane at will. 

But each time Rainier looked primed to pull ahead, the Mules responded with open 3-point shots, crafty ball movement, and crucial forced turnovers. Wahkiakum foreshadowed its fourth-quarter rally to close the first half, scoring eight quick points to make it 35-32 with the Mountaineers owning the halftime lead.

Rainier allowed just seven points in the third quarter and led 46-39 heading into the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers’ lead hovered around double digits for the first seven minutes of the quarter, but the Mules scored seven points in less than a minute to draw within three. Wahkiakum’s Parker Leitz ignited the ferocious comeback with a game-tying 3-pointer and a go-ahead layup off a steal on the next possession.

With a chance to tie or take the lead, Jacob Meldrum drove into the paint for a layup but was called for an offensive foul. The Mountaineers fouled to stop the clock and hoped for misses at the foul line, but the Mules made all four and sealed the 63-57 victory, silencing the home crowd. Wahkiakum outscored Rainier 24-11 in the final quarter to send the Mountaineers to a 6-2 record and 3-1 mark in league play.

“They shot the ball well. Leitz hit some shots, and they clearly have some other guys that can play,” Sheaffer said. “We over-helped at times and left shooters open. Down the stretch, we just weren’t getting good shots. We were stagnant and trying to over-dribble, and we didn’t execute like we wanted to. Hopefully we can use this loss as a lesson in situational basketball.”

Jacob Meldrum finished with a team-high 16 points, and Joshua Meldrum added 14 in the loss.

With back-to-back games coming up this weekend, Sheaffer said he wants to see his team play its brand of basketball again and maintain its focus, especially late in games.

“I want to see us rebound, play together and just do what we do. When we play together and we stay mentally focused, we’re pretty good,” he said. “But when we lose focus and don’t trust one another, we’re not.”

The Mountaineers welcome two non-league schools from eastern Washington to Rainier this weekend, with a date with Mabton on Friday, Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. and a matchup with Brewster on Saturday, Dec. 23 at 1:30 p.m.