RIDGEFIELD — As a squad often wreaking havoc defensively, it was fitting for the Columbia River girls basketball team to finish off a hard-fought road win Tuesday by getting a stop.
After Ridgefield’s Elizabeth Swift banked in a 3-pointer while drawing a foul and River missed two free throws on its ensuing possession, the Spudders had a chance to tie or take the lead, down two points with seven seconds left.
River denied Ridgefield an opportunity to even attempt a shot.
First, Paige Johnson went for a steal and caused a loose ball out of bounds that left just one second on the clock. River then blew up Ridgefield’s inbounds play underneath as the clock expired.
With a 41-39 win, the Rapids improved their 2A Greater St. Helens League record to 8-0, during a stretch of games where they’re allowing an average of 27.5 points per game to league opponents. They’ve held all eight teams under 40 points, and kept that streak intact Tuesday.
“We’re a defensive team, we work on it a lot at practice and we keep each other accountable for our defense,” junior Emma Iniguez said. “We’re just focused on it a lot, and we take pride in it.”
Iniguez and Taegan Benke led River with 15 and 11 points, respectively, helping lead the Rapids to a 19-point first quarter.
The scoring pace for both teams slowed considerably from there. At halftime, with the Rapids holding a 24-18 lead, River coach Jesse Norris told his team the rest of the game would be a “war of attrition.”
By the end of the game, River’s defense and hustle had worn Ridgefield down.
The Spudders twice tied the game in the third quarter, but were unable to take the lead as River responded with back-to-back baskets each time.
To open the fourth quarter, River pushed its lead to eight points after Iniguez grabbed a steal in the open court and put in a layup, Benke knocked down two free throws and Logann Dukes grabbed an offensive rebound and putback.
Inside the final minute, the Rapids held a five-point lead before Swift’s late 3-pointer. That play, combined with River’s two missed free throws, turned up the volume for Ridgefield’s home crowd. The Rapids didn’t blink.
“Composure was one of our goals for this game because we tend to get a little frantic,” Iniguez said. “We kept it up, we kept our energy. Energy definitely helps with keeping our composure, surprisingly.”
River (8-3, 8-0) remains in pole position of the 2A GSHL at the halfway point with eight games remaining. It’s already a marked improvement for a team that went 5-15 last season and finished seventh out of nine teams in the league.
“I think it’s our mentality,” Benke said. “We do have a lot of players who play two sports, so (basketball) has more been like the second sport. But this year, we’ve changed it to, we’re focusing all of our energy on this season and focusing on what we can do as a team. I think we realized that we can actually do pretty well.”
Ridgefield (6-5, 4-3), led by Janessa Chatman’s 11 points and 10 points from Avery Wilson, is another 2A GSHL team intent on improving from a sixth-place finish last season.
To do that, the Spudders are still looking to put together a complete, 32-minute effort. Over the past few games, the Spudders are close to getting there, Ridgefield coach Lauren Hefflin said.
“You’re playing at a high level, and then you’re playing consistently at a high level, and I think that’s kind of the turning point we’re at,” Hefflin said. “We’re figuring out how to be urgent, how to play hard, how to go for those steals. But it’s being able to kind of patch those minutes together and string 32 of them together.”
COLUMBIA RIVER 41, RIDGEFIELD 39
COLUMBIA RIVER — Marley Myers 0, Peyton Dukes 8, Logann Dukes 6, Paige Johnson 1, Kinzi Drake 0, Emma Iniguez 15, Taegen Benke 11, Gracie Glavin 0. Totals 17 (2) 5-13 41.
RIDGEFIELD — Kylie Andrew 2, Megan Weber 1, Avery Wilson 10, Nora Martin 2, Elizabeth Swift 3, Kaylen Wingerd 0, Morgan Goode 6, Makayla Ferguson 4, Janessa Chatman 11, Brooke Larson. Totals 13 (4) 9-13 39.
Col.River 19 5 7 10—41
Ridgefield 12 6 11 10—39
JV — 47-30 River