AUBURN — The Columbia River girls basketball team knows only one speed to play at: fast, physical and always flying around.
Those were some of the signature traits River carried, particularly on the defensive end, as they finished first in the 2A Greater St. Helens League and advanced through the District 4 playoffs to reach state.
So it came as no surprise the Rapids went out the same way while facing a substantial deficit to Enumclaw on Saturday in the Class 2A state opening round at Auburn High School.
The Hornets, who ultimately claimed a 58-47 win to end the Rapids’ season at 17-6, began to pull away to start the second half, turning a 33-22 halftime advantage into a lead as large as 18 points late in the third quarter.
The Rapids’ entire team, players and coaches, gathered on the edge of the court in between the third and fourth. No matter that the scoreboard showed a 49-33 Enumclaw lead, the Rapids were only thinking of finishing strong.
“We’re just a team that doesn’t give up,” River junior Emma Iniguez said. “We play until the whistle, we play until the buzzer and that’s just the mindset I want my teammates and I to have.”
“What I said to my team going into the fourth quarter, ‘there’s nothing to lose anymore,’” senior Kinzi Drake added. “As a senior I think that was important for me to put that out there, because there was no reason for us to not keep fighting.”
River put that effort on display during the final eight minutes. It started with junior Paige Johnson grabbing a steal and finding senior Logann Dukes for a fastbreak layup.
Johnson then proceeded to knock down three free throws in two more trips to the line while grabbing another steal and offensive rebound.
After Peyton Dukes knocked down a pair of free throws with four minutes left, the Rapids were suddenly within 49-41 of the Hornets.
That promising stretch of play turned out to be fleeting, as Enumclaw’s Charlee Torgison responded with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and the Hornets were able to halt River’s rally. Yet it also highlighted what River head coach Jesse Norris has come to expect with this group.
“I was impressed, definitely, but I’ve kind of come to expect that is our identity,” River coach Jesse Norris said. “We fight, sometimes literally. I was impressed, and it sucks this season has got to end because it was just so much fun going to battle with them every day.”
Enumclaw’s 58 points tied a season high surrendered by River, which also gave up 58 points to Class 4A Union in December.
The Hornets (18-6) showcased their mid-range and 3-point shooting from the opening tip with six players scoring field goals through the first quarter, which they led 22-8.
In the second quarter, Torgison took over with 11 points on three 3-pointers, and finished with a team-high 17 points.
Iniguez led River with 12 points and Drake chipped in nine.
“They were definitely different than the teams in our league. Because no team in our league has five people who can shoot the ball lights out the whole time,” Drake said. “That’s something we haven’t faced so far, so that’s something we definitely had to adapt to.”
The Rapids were making just their third appearance in state since 1998 and first since 2016. The season was a marked improvement from the previous two under Norris, River’s third-year coach.
Norris recalled a conversation with Iniguez at the beginning of last summer when only a handful of players were routinely coming to workouts. According to Norris, Iniguez was starting to question how that would translate to the upcoming season.
The head coach’s response?
“Well, let’s change this then,” he said. “She got to work, brought some people along with her and changed the culture. Hopefully (we’ll) keep doing it moving forward.”
“We all connected really well, we all stayed together throughout the entire season,” Iniguez added. “A lot of team bonding, and I appreciate all of the girls and I love playing with all of them. It’s a special team.”
ENUMCLAW 58, COLUMBIA RIVER 47
COLUMBIA RIVER (17-6) — Marley Myers 3, Peyton Dukes 4, Logann Dukes 6, Paige Johnson 6, Kinzi Drake 9, Emma Iniguez 12, Taegen Benke 3, Ainsley Morrisey 0, Gracie Glavin 3. Totals 15 (3) 14-25 47.
ENUMCLAW (18-6) — Natalie DeMarco 6, Kaylee Swanson 5, McKinley Rubin 0, Marissa Lindberg 3, Charlee Torgison 17, Gabi Martel 6, Bella Firnkoess 11, Gwenny Hardersen 8, Sydney VanHoof 2. Totals 22 (8) 6-11 58.
Col.River 8 14 11 14—47
Enumclaw 22 11 16 9—58