RAINIER - It's hard for Kristen Schoenherr to explain the way her game escalates at the most opportune times. She sees the time remaining, and then flips a switch.
For three quarters of Friday night’s seesaw battle between two of the top girls basketball teams in the Southwest Washington 1A Evergreen Division, neither Rainier nor Elma could grab the upper hand.
But thanks in part to Schoenherr, the No. 8-ranked Mountaineers took control in the final quarter and pulled away for a 48-34 victory over the Eagles to remain in first place.
“Something just picked up inside me,” said Schoenherr, who led all scorers with 26 points. “I look at the scoreboard, and I tell myself, ‘Pick it up, you can push yourself harder and you can push (my teammates) harder.’ I wish I could do it the entire game.”
The win keeps Rainier (12-3 overall, 9-0 SWW 1A) on track to finish unbeaten in league for the first time. Another big test comes Tuesday against Onalaska (8-1 in league). The Loggers’ lone loss came against Rainier on Jan. 4.
Schoenherr scored a season-high 36 points on Dec. 30 when Rainier beat Elma, 62-60.
The second go-around was an defensive struggle that featured 12 lead changes, with neither team taking more than a three-point lead until the final period.
Rainier took a 31-29 advantage into the fourth quarter, and that’s when the offense, as well as defense, picked up. Schoenherr’s basket to start the fourth sparked the Mountaineers’ 17-5 run in the final eight minutes. The 5-foot-9 senior had six points, two assists, two rebounds, and two steals in the final quarter, but nothing was bigger than her 3-point play that stretched the Mountaineers’ lead to 42-31 with just under 2 minutes left.
“When she’s on and getting her teammates involved, you can’t stop her,” Rainier coach Jim Kindle said of Schoenherr, a favorite to win the league MVP honor. “It doesn’t matter who’s guarding her.”
Rainier held Elma to one field goal in the fourth quarter, a last-second putback by 6-foot-2 post Carly Meister. Meister finished with a hard-earned 16 points, and was held in check while being double- and triple-teamed all night. Meister had 12 of her 16 points in the first half for Elma, which fell to 6-3 in league.
Schoenherr’s sister, Kara, contributed nine points, and Kelsey Eygabroad had all seven of her points in the second half.
“We still have a lot of room for improvement,” said Kindle, who’s in his first year at Rainier. “Our first goal is to win conference, and then get into district. ... But it’s one possession at a time for us.”
Rainier 51, Elma 27: The Mountaineers continue to roll, winning their fourth straight game and holding the Eagles to a season-low in points.
Rainier (5-3 SWW 1A) had the upper hand all game, and had a 16-3 edge in the third quarter to take a 43-19 lead.
Rainier had three scorers in double figures, led by Chris Ashby and Matt Tietjen with 12 points apiece, and Brandon Eygabroad’s 10.
Elma (1-7 SWW 1A) got 13 points from Nolan Wyatt and 10 from Troy Collin.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com