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Rapid Success: Columbia River girls basketball continues trend of school’s big year for girls sports

State champs from soccer, volleyball also playing basketball

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 10, 2023, 6:03am

As part of celebrating its first league title in 17 seasons last week, Columbia River High girls basketball players and coaches did what teams traditionally do in these settings: cut down their individual piece of the net.

Junior Emma Iniguez has hers, but also kept the remainder of the net.

“I need to display it somewhere,” the junior forward said.

What the net symbolizes is not only a successful season in girls basketball — winning 15 games and capturing its first league title since 2005-06 — but also represents the continuing trend of big seasons by the school’s female sports programs.

No Clark County school can match what River has accomplished so far in 2022-23: Class 2A state titles in volleyball and girls soccer in the fall, and a runner-up state finish by its girls bowling team last weekend.

Now, girls basketball looks to be the next in line as it gears up for the postseason. River (15-4 overall) hosts league-rival Washougal (11-11) at 6 p.m. Friday to open the 2A District IV tournament. The Rapids are two wins away from reaching the regional round of state.

In addition to playing basketball, Iniguez is a golfer at River. She said the impact of the bowling, soccer and volleyball programs’ accomplishments are felt everywhere.

“It’s inspiring. I’m not kidding,” said Iniguez, River’s leading scorer averaging a double-double of 12 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.

Six varsity volleyball and soccer athletes — Kinzi Drake, Logann Dukes, Peyton Dukes and Paige Johnson (soccer) and Taegen Benke and Logan DeJong (volleyball) — are on the Rapids’ basketball roster.

“Their work ethic is amazing, and they bring it to the (basketball) court. It’s awesome,” Iniguez said.

The championship mentality from other sports easily translates onto the hardwood, said Drake, a senior guard.

“Having enough people that went through that in the fall, then having energy to continue working is really pushing us,” she said. “(Other basketball teammates) saw how hard you have to work for that, so it just made all of us understand what we have to do to get to where we want to be.”

In fact, Benke, a senior forward, pointed to River’s Jan. 31 game against Hudson’s Bay for why championship experience matters in high-pressure situations. River trailed for much of that game before turning it on late for a 50-36 victory to clinch the league title.

“We just changed entirely how we were playing,” Benke said. “Just knowing after that, we can pull together and push through those tough times. I think it really brought us closer as a team.”

Defense is River’s identity. In 16 league games, it held opponents to an average of 30.8 points per game.

Third-year head coach Jesse Norris called the team’s defensive instincts “off the charts” which has led to a perfect buildup for a big turnaround season. The Rapids went 5-15 in 2021-22, a 10-win improvement.

From title-winning familiarity to defensive instincts, Norris believes more celebrations could be in the team’s future.

“We’re hoping to get some other nets this year,” the coach said. “I really think it’s possible.”