The Rainier-Clatskanie rivalry is always heated. It’s been that way since Clatskanie coach Ryan Svenson was playing.
“There’s no big secret. We don’t like Rainier. They don’t like us,” Svenson said.
But for the past few years, Rainier has more often than not gotten the better of the Tigers on the basketball court.
The guard is changing.
Clatskanie responded to a poor first half to top Rainier 53-45 in a Lewis and Clark boys’ basketball game on Friday in Rainier.
“I was really frustrated at halftime,” Svenson said. “We just talked about how they were outplaying us. I think we’re deeper, a bit more physical, a bit more athletic. We didn’t necessarily utilize those things in the first half.”
James Helmen scored 14 points, Devon Jones and Cooper Blodgett added 10 and Ryan Watson finished with 10 rebounds for the Tigers.
But it wasn’t until a blocked shot by Rainier’s Caymon Rea midway through the third quarter, with the Columbians leading 37-31 that the Tigers’ fire finally got lit.
Rea held out his arms in celebration and Helmen said a few words, before the Tigers’ sophomore guard capped an 11-0 run minutes later to put Clatskanie up 42-37.
“It feels great,” said Helmen, who held a finger up to his mouth to try to silence the Rainier crowd as the clock wound down. “There was some social media thing going on, but Rainier is always a rivalry, so it just makes it a little more sweet.”
It was just the dagger the Tigers (10-5) needed. They held the area’s leading scorer Caymon Rea scoreless in the second half, and limited Conner Rea to just five points as the defense took over the game.
The Rea brothers combined for 28 points in the contest.
“It’s frustrating. We’re growing, but we have to learn how to win,” Rainier coach Logan Nelson said. “They’re a tough team. They’re very disciplined. That’s where we want to be by the end of the season.”
For Rainier, it was another case of a close game turned into a tough loss this season. At 3-13, the Columbians are still searching for a way to get back in the playoff picture. One step in the right direction was the return of Dawson Carr on Friday.
Recovering from a dislocated ankle from November’s state semifinal football game, Carr came off the bench and hauled in a team-high 11 rebound to go with four points.
“It’s nice to have Dawson back,” Nelson said. “He’s still learning the offense; he’s only been back three days. It’s a learning process.”