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Mountaineers engineer second-half comeback to top Riverhawks

Feb. 1—Box Score

At Toledo

MOUNTAINEERS 60, RIVERHAWKS 52

Rainier12 11 24 13 — 60

Toledo15 16 14 7 — 52

Rainier (60) — Ja. Meldrum 18, Jo. Meldrum 12, Boesch 10, Sheaffer 7, Ji. Meldrum 7, Howell 4, Sprouffske 3

Toledo (52) — Gale 19, Schultz 11, Fallon 7, Stanley 7, Winters 4, Stemkoski 3, Kruger 1

TOLEDO — In the first half of Thursday's tilt between Toledo and Rainier, the Riverhawks were the more efficient, disciplined team. With an eight-point lead at halftime, it seemed that Toledo was on its way to ending the regular season on a high note.

Instead, the Mountaineers came out of the locker room refreshed, and they slowly took control of the game, scoring 24 points in the third quarter to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish in a 60-52 victory.

"We just turned up the energy," Rainier coach Ben Sheaffer said. "The game honors toughness, and I thought that we showed that we're tough."

It was clear the tide had shifted just two minutes into the second half. After Johnny Boesch got to the rim for a lay-in, he and Jake Meldrum hit back-to-back 3-pointers to get within three.

.In the first half, the Mountaineers (13-7, 8-5 C2BL) had shot just 2 for 17 from deep, and Toledo (13-8, 6-7 C2BL) worked quickly off of those misses to get transition buckets to build up an early lead. Trevin Gale was the biggest beneficiary, as he scored 12 points in the first half.

"We were kicking it up and putting the pressure on them," Toledo coach Grady Fallon said. "I thought our ball movement was good, they were making that extra pass."

In the third, the Mountaineers worked just as quickly on offense as they had in the first half, but they were more under control.

"We just started focusing on getting two feet in the paint, being playmakers, and creating and getting to the rim," Rainier coach Ben Sheaffer said. "I think that's what led to that little spurt that we went on."

While the offense stole the show in the third, it was the defense that put the game away in the fourth. After a Kaven Winters bucket early in the quarter, Toledo went more than four minutes before scoring again. In that time, Rainier extended its lead to seven.

The game wasn't out of reach, especially after a three from Cooper Fallon, but the Riverhawks couldn't muster enough offensively. They never got back within one possession.

Meldrum led the Mountaineers with 18 points, while Josh Meldrum scored 12 and Boesch added 10. Jimmy Meldrum and Sheaffer logged seven each.

Gale finished with a game-high 19 points for Toledo, while senior Caiden Schultz added 11, including a 3-pointer, off the bench.

Fallon hauled in eight rebounds, while Winters dished out five assists and Kruger recorded four.

With the win, the Mountaineers clinched the No. 5 seed from the C2BL in the upcoming district tournament. But, more importantly to Sheaffer, they snapped a two-game skid to enter the tournament on a high note.

"When you lose, you start to question everything you're doing," Sheaffer said. "It feels good to win, especially going into the tournament. It's gonna be brutal. There's a lot of great teams, but it's a new season and we feel good where we are."

On the other end, the Riverhawks have lost three in a row heading in, and while Fallon doesn't doubt the physical ability of his team, he noted he needs to see a rejuvenated group come Saturday.

"I think mentally we gotta really decide that we want it more and go do it," Fallon said.

Both teams will have to turn the page quickly, as Toledo will play Raymond and Rainier will play Forks in the first round of districts on Saturday in Montesano.

While preparation will begin almost instantly, Sheaffer noted that he'll be sure to enjoy tonight's win for a bit before turning the page.

"They're (the Riverhawks) the program that we kind of pattern ourselves after," Sheaffer said. "So to get a win here feels really rewarding."