Relieved Mountaineers Punch Ticket to Spokane


TUMWATER — The No. 11 Rainier girls basketball team had never won a regional round playoff game entering Friday night’s contest against No. 14 Columbia (Burbank). They had played in a slew of loser-out games already, and the matchup with the Coyotes was no different. Though the Mountaineers have made state several times, they just have not been able to break through in the regional round. 

Friday night, against a pesky Coyotes team, it didn’t matter what the history said. In a 50-41 victory, paced by unexpected sources, the Mountaineers punched its ticket to Spokane next Tuesday. 

“It’s a big relief,” Mountaineers coach Brandon Eygabroad said. “But I’m so proud of these guys and how they’ve battled. We’ve been through four loser-out games, and each time they come back and respond. We have another loser-out game and we’ll see how they respond in Spokane.”

It’s the Mountaineers first state bid since 2019, and just like all year, they relied on some unexpected sources to eek out the win. 

Leading by just one at the half, and getting killed on the offensive glass, Rainier went to sophomore post Haleigh Hanson to add some size to their lineup. 

It paid off and then some. 

Though the sophomore finished with just four points and three rebounds, Rainier’s offensive game changed dramatically, and suddenly the Coyotes weren’t getting nearly as many looks inside. 

“She made an immediate impact, to the point where I couldn’t take her out,” Eygabroad said. “Her size, rebounding, they didn’t want to go inside. She cleaned up the boards, she changed the game. It’s big, you never know when your number is going to be called, and to have it called and play like that, it’s big.”

The Mountaineers went on an 18-13 run in the third quarter, paced by four shots from distance, including two from senior Faith Boesch who finished with 12 points. 

But again, down the stretch, Rainier’s freshmen made plays when it mattered the most. Brooklynn Swenson and Bryn Beckman made free throw after free throw to help pull away, and a Hanson layup after a sweet pass from senior Isabella Holmes put the icing on the cake. 

Beckman finished with a game-high 19 points and 12 rebounds. 

“Both of them have handled the ball and pressure,” Eygabroad said of Swenson and Beckman. “Brooklynn had a tough task with a senior guarding her, but never quit, and Bryn led us in scoring and rebounding. They hate to lose, and they’re going to do everything it takes to win.” 

It’s just a byproduct of the way Rainier has played all year, and the culture that’s trickled down from the senior leaders, Holmes, Boesch, and Selena Niemi, to the freshmen. It’s paid immediate dividends. 

After COVID-19 forced a shortened season last year and no state tournament, the Mountaineers are headed back to Spokane on Tuesday against the loser of the matchup between No. 3 Colfax and No. 6 Lake Roosevelt.