Though Rainier gave it all it could handle, the Morton-White Pass boys basketball team overcame some early blows from the Mountaineers — both figuratively and literally — in a 63-52 win Wednesday night in the 2B District 4 quarterfinals at W.F. West.
The Mountaineers kept pace with the Timberwolves for the majority of the game, going blow-for-blow with the highly-touted T-Wolves all game until MWP separated in the fourth quarter.
Rainier’s frenetic press, combined with the physical nature of the 2B District 4 tournament, was exactly the introduction Morton-White Pass needed to start its postseason run.
“Everything’s a lesson but at this point it’s just a grind,” MWP coach Chad Cramer said. “You just want to survive and advance and move forward. At the end of the day, if you can play bad and win, that’s a good thing in the playoffs. It’s a bottom-line business once you get here.”
The Timberwolves went down low to Josh Salguero, early and often, and the senior produced once again in MWP’s district-opening win. Salguero finished with a game-high 23 points and another game-high 18 rebounds in the win, exploiting an undersized Mountaineer squad.
Even a cut on his face, and blood on his jersey, didn’t stop Salguero from re-entering the game and helping the Timberwolves close in the final moments.
Hunter Hazen added 12 timely points, and Jake Cournyer knocked down three long balls en route to 12 points of his own.
“It’s always a focus to get Josh the ball,” Cramer said. “We knew we would try to establish him right away. He came out for a bit, scraped up and his face was bleeding, they just beat the crap out of him and he took them for 23 and 18. He was dominant.”
Outside of Salguero, however, the Mountaineers forced several issues for MWP throughout the game. Rainier sped the game up, made some timely buckets, and were within striking distance for most of the night in Chehalis.
Without second-team all-league guard Josh Meldrum, and already short depth, the Mountaineers were led by Jake Meldrum’s 14 points, Jared Sprouffske’s 11, and Jimmy Meldrum’s 10 points.
“We have nothing to hang our heads about,” Rainier coach Ben Sheaffer said. “Obviously they have a size advantage and we tried to speed them up and turn them over, but in the end they were better than us.”
The Mountaineers will face Toledo in a loser-out contest on Friday at Black Hills, with their season on the line.
“If we play as hard as we did tonight with that competitive spirit, we’re going to live with whatever the results are,” Sheaffer said. “We’re still coming together, we’re young, and we have some kids that are starting to believe in themselves and believe in what we do, and we feel really good about that.”
The Timberwolves meanwhile, will get another week off before matching up against Pacific 2B champ Chief Leschi in Kelso next Wednesday in the district semifinals.