Photos by Kurt Howard
Jada Piper of TJ loses control of the ball in a sea of blue from Mt Rainier defenders. SCROLL DOWN OR CLICK THE IMAGE TO VIEW MORE PICTURES

SLIDESHOW: Mount Rainier escapes pressure

AUBURN - And they all toppled down has been the recurring report of the fate of all Mount Rainier (Des Moines) girls basketball opponents thus far.

With a strong impetus provided by their experienced returning players from last season's Class 4A state third place team, the Rams have ferociously felled their foes by an average of more than 25 points per game. This includes a devastating demolition of a previously ninth-ranked squad.

Tuesday, Dec. 18, turned into a truly tenacious task in the toughest test of the season.

Rallying from three seven point deficits in the first half, the state No.1 ranked Mount Rainier Rams finally raced away from the Auburn Riverside Ravens for a deceptive looking 70-55 win to raise their unbeaten status to 7-0 in the South Puget Sound League North and 9-0 overall. Auburn Riverside fell to 4-2 and 5-3 respectively.

Holding a slim 54-50 lead against the Ravens with just more than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Rams began their breakaway.

Following an AR near miss off the back rim, Brittany McPhee took charge with the aid of a Mount Rainier defense that forced turnovers and controlled the rebounding. McPhee began with an inside basket and followed this up with two free throws. An inside move and rebound basket plus two converted charity tosses earned her an eighth consecutive point as the Rams led 62-50 with 3:19 showing on the scoreboard clocks.

Ilona Snyder drained a 3-pointer for Auburn Riverside, but the Rams outscored the Ravens 8-2 the rest of the way on easy baskets induced by the desperately charging Auburn Riverside offense.

"Our teams is another year older in experience," MR head coach Bob Bolam said. "They (the Ravens) played inspired basketball tonight and really came after us tonight. It took us awhile to wake up. A really long time. We hurried some shots, but that's because of the fast pace. Fortunately, we have players who can play this way. It was no ones game until we cleared away at the end."

Both teams produced full court pressure throughout with the Ravens' aggression being more effective early. A hard and challenging offensive and defensive effort led by the athletic efforts of Auburn Riverside forced the pace and cleared the Ravens for a 7-0 first quarter scoring surge and a 16-9 lead. Mount Rainier fought back within 16-15, but quick strikes by AR pushed the lead for Auburn Riverside to 22-15 and an eventual 22-17 margin going into the second quarter.

Trailing 26-19, the Rams rolled off eight consecutive points triggered by Brittany McPhee's steal and driving lay up and capped by Jordan McPhee's running jump hook swisher.

With breakaway baskets now being limited by the Rams, Jordan McPhee defense - including steals - and offense joined the offense of Brittany McPhee to keep Auburn Riverside at bay, 35-30. The Ravens kept at it to close within 35-34 before Brittany McPhee sent the Rams to halftime with a 37-34 lead.

Led by Jordan McPhee's thievery on defense, Mount Rainier built up its advantage to 48-40 only to have Auburn Riverside fire back to trail only 48-43. Rachel Daveny later converted a 3-pointer ahead of a Brittni Williams steal and basket and the Ram lead was down to 50-48, but Brittany McPhee banked home a basket at the end of the quarter for a 52-48 edge after three quarters.

Matching baskets to open the fourth quarter set up the final game changing minutes.

"We kind of started slowly," said Brittany McPhee, who regularly moved inside the key to post up and maneuver for 33 points. "We just had to settle down."

Jordan McPhee tallied 20 points to go along with her devastating defensive presence.

Snyder harassed the Rams on defense and athletically moved for 15 points while Raven teammate Shantell Jackson fired in 13 points.

Mount Rainier moved to a 3:30 p.m showdown with unbeaten 2A powerhouse White River at the ShoWare Center in Kent on Dec. 22.

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