RAINIER — Something had to give Wednesday night as Rainier and Toledo battled in a Central 2B clash between fringe state bid contenders.
The Mountaineers were freefalling on a three-game losing skid, and the Riverhawks, though on a two-game win streak, were still looking for a signature win to hang their hat on.
Early in Rainier Wednesday night, the shots certainly weren’t falling, for either team. But eventually, the Mountaineers got the boost they needed from great team ball, and 24 points from freshman guard Josh Meldrum in a 47-35 win at home.
“Coming off that three-game slide, there’s peaks and valleys during every season but I thought we responded really well,” Mountaineers coach Ben Sheaffer said. “It’s nice to have home-cooking. We’re still climbing, we’re not where we want to be yet, this is a tough league. If we want to compete with the top-tier teams, we have to be better.”
The Mountaineers (8-4, 2-3 C2BL) rocketed out to a 10-4 lead after one quarter, and kept up the strong defense all night, holding the Riverhawks (11-4, 2-3 C2BL) to just 35 total points.
With leading scorer Ian Sprouffske in foul trouble in the first game, Rainier moved the ball with precision and found the open man more often than not when they got out in transition. Sprouffske finished with nine points, while Logan Bowers and Jake Meldrum dropped six points each.
“We got back to what we’re good at, which is playing great man-to-man defense,” Sheaffer said. “We got great ball movement tonight. We weren’t looking to go one-on-one, when we got ball reversals we got great looks.”
As a result of the Mountaineers' firm defensive effort, every single Riverhawk offensive possession was a chore.
Jake Cournyer was the lone Riverhawk in double figures with 14 points, and Toledo made just two 3-pointers through the game in a tough shooting night to go along with 15 turnovers.
For Rainier, Cournyer was the focus headed in.
“He’s a great player, we have some prideful guys on our side that took on the challenge of guarding him and wanting to compete,” Sheaffer said. “We’ve got to be more consistent, but we felt good about the way we defended him.”
Cournyer consistently faced double-teams as he crossed half court, and was facing traps, face-guarding defense, and the like all night long from the Mountaineers. Though he put 14 in the scorebook, the rest of the Toledo offense had a hard time keeping up.
“I was kind of surprised at half that we had 19 points, I felt like we had six,” Riverhawks coach Grady Fallon said. “(Rainier) did a good job defensively just bringing it, every position had to bring everything and I don’t think we matched that. That makes it tough.”
For the Riverhawks, it’s another devastating close league contest that they felt they needed to win. After a narrow defeat at the hands of Toutle Lake in their district opener, and another defeat to Kalama, Toledo is still looking for that signature win that can get them going headed into a tough district tournament.
Both coaches said their schedules hardly get any easier from here.
“We haven’t gelled yet, we definitely aren’t playing our best basketball,” Fallon said. “This league, you have to find a win somewhere. It doesn’t get much easier after this. It’s hard to put your thumb on just one thing we didn’t do well.”
The Riverhawks will look to bounce back against Adna on the road on Friday while Rainier looks to keep it going against Onalaska.