RAINIER — Just call it flipping the switch.
The Rainier High School girls basketball team has been — and likely will continue to be — known for when to suddenly turn on the defensive jets and take over a game.
The Mountaineers did so late in the fourth quarter, with five steals in the final 2 minutes, 34 seconds of its 45-42 victory over Rochester on Tuesday night in a Class 1A Southwest Washington Evergreen Division game at Rainier High School.
The defense, as senior wing Kelsey Eygabroad described it, turns into a full-on team effort.
“That’s when we all get on the same level,” said Eygabroad, who led the Mountaineers with 15 points. “It’s when we come together as a team is when things look up for us. … I wouldn’t want to play our defense.”
The Mountaineers (4-4 overall, 2-1 1A SWW) forced 17 turnovers, but none more crucial than in the final minutes of the game.
Rainier led for most of the low-scoring game, but Rochester (6-3, 2-1) grabbed a 35-32 lead inside 3 minutes remaining on point guard Keeli Demers’ jumper.
That’s when Rainier’s defense took over.
In three consecutive defensive possessions, the Mountaineers had three steals, which led to three fastbreak buckets and six straight points by Riley Mortlock, who finished with 13 points and seven steals.
The string of scoring was part of a 9-2 run after Kelli Brown’s roll-around-the-rim 3-pointer that gave Rainier a 41-37 advantage.
Rainier coach Jim Kindle said the team must rely on its pressure defense, given that it is not a strong half-court offensive team.
“Our offense has to come from our defense,” Kindle said.
Neither team was too impressive in the first half. Rainier took an 18-13 halftime lead, converting only 7 of 26 shots.
Rochester was 4-for-23 shooting in the first half. Junior Allisha Leischner led the Warriors with a game-high 18 points, including 9-for-12 from the free-throw line and 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
It’s been a storybook start for the Warriors, who have already surpassed last year’s five-win total. Three of the team’s players in the starting lineup are sophomores.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick