KELSO - A trapping full-court press helped Rainier to an 18-8 lead in the first period and Ilwaco would get no closer than three points in the second period as the Mountaineers climbed into the District IV 1A championship game by downing Ilwaco 66-53 Tuesday, Feb. 15. The win punched Rainier's ticket to regionals.

Alexa Wirkkala sank a free throw and a three-point shot to get the Lady Fishermen to within five at the end of one quarter and Logan Manecke's old-fashioned three-point play made the score 18-15 in favor of the Mountaineers with 7:42 to go in the second period.

Rainier rallied for 11 straight points and they were ahead 33-23 at halftime after Kady Kirby swished a trey at the buzzer. A nifty move inside by Kenzi Wirkkala off an Elleigh Kaino assist pulled Ilwaco to within 33-25, but they would get closer in the second half.

"We had our chances," Coach Ned Bittner lamented. "We missed 13 free throws and that was how much we lost by. Their press was effective in the first quarter and then we adjusted, but in the second half their 1-3-1 half-court defense gave us open looks, but we shot poorly."

Ilwaco was 21-34 from the foul line for 62 percent, but they made their last eight freebies down the stretch. The Lady Fishermen were 14-43 from the field for 33 percent, but they were 8-27 in the second half. Rainier held Ilwaco to only six field goal tries in the first period with the Lady Fishermen sinking three. Rainier was 22-50 from the floor for 44 percent and made five "three's" to Ilwaco's four treys. The Mountaineers were 17-22 from the line for 77 percent and they made their last 10 in a row.

Ilwaco out-rebounded Rainier 35-32, but turned the basketball over 20 times to 13 for the winners. Alexa Wirkkala led all scorers 20 points and she had five steals, Kenzi Wirkkala worked for a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, Kirby added nine points, and Manecke came off the bench to roll in seven points and grab five rebounds. Kaino had four points and four assists and Sydney Ward scored two.

The Lady Fishermen are now 17-5 and they will play LaCenter Thursday, Feb. 27 in Kelso at 6:30 p.m. with a trip to regionals on the line. The loser will go home empty.

LaCenter downed Castle Rock 69-37 after the teams split during league play. Ilwaco also split with the Lady Wildcats during the year, winning 53-40 and losing 44-42. Rainier improves to 20-2 and will play the winner of Tenino and Onalaska for the district crown.

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