Cougars scratch out win over EJ girls

Posted 1/25/23

The Rivals girls’ defensive wall was mighty, but the Cascade Christian Cougars managed to barely scale the wall and come out on top.

The East Jefferson Rivals varsity girls basketball team …

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Cougars scratch out win over EJ girls


The Rivals girls’ defensive wall was mighty, but the Cascade Christian Cougars managed to barely scale the wall and come out on top.

The East Jefferson Rivals varsity girls basketball team faced Cascade Christian School late last week, losing 33-28 in a close, back-and-forth affair that was dominated by the defense.

Considering the Rivals lost 55-34 the last time they faced the Cougars back in December, EJ Head Coach Lorraine Rimson was nothing but proud at the end of Thursday’s matchup, praising her girls for 100-percent effort from start to finish.

“I told them I’ve never been prouder. The game is 32 minutes and they played excellent defense for 32 minutes,” Rimson said.

“You could ask 100 different coaches at any level and ask them how many times their teams played hard defense from end to end for 100 percent of the game, and it is rare. Frankly, I’m kind of stunned by it.”

While they utilized the full court press from tipoff to the final whistle, it was a rocky start for the Rivals at the end of the first period. The girls locked down the Cougars’ high-octane offense but couldn’t find their form at the basket, with the Rivals down 8-0 after the opening period.

Just as the opponents were starting to pull away, EJ senior and inside scorer Alyssa Vandenberg delivered much-needed baskets for the Rivals. Vandenberg drew two fouls and earned four points at the free-throw line while senior guard Maddy Harris nailed a jump shot right before halftime to make it 10-6 Cougars.

The Rivals continued to put points on the board in the third period, with Vandenberg dominating the paint and sophomore point guard Kay Botkin swishing a three, but the Cougars pounced on their offensive opportunities to go up 23-15 with eight minutes of play left.

Desperate to level it, EJ’s Botkin, Harris, and Vandenberg put on the points while junior Abbie Liske and senior Addy Asbell held their own on defense.

The girls cut the Cougars’ lead down to 29-27 with less than two minutes remaining, but Cascade Christian held steady to ultimately prevail 33-28.

While a close loss never feels good, Rimson couldn’t help but laud her team for a complete defensive effort.

The [Cougars’] coach said to me, ‘Wow.’ She commented on the improvement and said, ‘Your defense is just unbelievable,’” Rimson recalled. “We just need to work on getting more comfortable on the offense and taking shots. They had open shots and we just need to work on that.”

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Rivals this year as they opened the season with a 1-4 record, but part of the key to EJ’s resurgence has been the endurance drills at practice.

“We’ve kicked up the intensity on the conditioning … We’re getting better; we keep getting better,” Rimson said.

Another key for EJ has been the efforts on both sides of the ball from Botkin at point guard.

“Kay Botkin has really improved her play the last three games and again tonight, just smarter point guard play,” Rimson said. “[Botkin] didn’t put the team on her shoulders today like she did in Klahowya, because other players played so well. Kay’s really improving and she’s just a sophomore.”

There is no “I” in team though, and the head coach was quick to praise her starters and rotation players.

“Abbie [Liske] was tough, Addy [Asbell] was tough, Alyssa [Vandenberg] is always solid in there … Penina [Vailolo] gave us good minutes,” Rimson said.

Vandenberg led the home team in scoring with 12, Botkin netted 11 points, Harris scored four, and Asbell earned a point at the free-throw line.

Now the Rivals are looking to build on their late-season momentum and not only make the playoffs, but make a deep run.

“We’re moving in the right direction. The goal is to make it to districts and now I’ve upped the ante and said the goal needs to be to get to districts and win the first round,” Rimson said.

The Rivals are currently situated in the No. 5 seed out of six qualifying spots for the Nisqually League playoffs.