Hoops: Renton boys go to state for second straight season

Redhawks handled Franklin Pierce with ease in a 78-47 win.

After an eventful 80-77 KingCo Tournament Championship victory in overtime against Sammamish, Renton entered the District 2 Tournament as the third seed and hosted Franklin Pierce on Feb. 13.

These two sides have played just one time against a Rashaad Powell led Renton team. Back in 2020, the two were paired up in a district game in which Franklin Pierce beat the Redhawks 75-62.

This time around, Renton made sure that result was not going to happen. Renton dismantled the Cardinals, 78-47, advancing to the state tournament. Renton will make their second state tournament berth in a row and fourth under Coach Powell.

“We’ve been playing better since the postseason started. I’ve tried to stress the importance of a one game season and win the day,” Powell said on his team’s mentality.

This year’s team is much different than state teams in years prior. This year’s Renton squad is relatively young. In the starting five of the Redhawks’ first playoff game, there was just one senior and two upperclassmen.

“The potential and talent is there, but it’s the experience. They’re coachable, they’re hungry,” Powell said.

For the players, their focus is different than a season ago.

“When we went to state last year, we went relaxed. This year is different. More focused to get what we need,” said junior Dennis Johnson.

Renton’s starting five shot out of a cannon against Franklin Pierce, taking a 15-2 lead. All five starting players recorded made baskets and got out on the right foot in the postseason. After the first quarter, Renton led 21-8.

“We try and punch them in the mouth, so then as the game progresses they start to fold,” said Johnson.

Johnson had a killer first half, and he led all scorers with 17 first-half points. He also lead all scorers at the end of the game with a final tally of 29.

The Redhawks led by 18 at half and 26 after three quarters of play. There was never really any scent of a comeback from Franklin Pierce. The rigorous regular season has prepared Renton for the playoffs — and it showed. Renton was dominant throughout the entire game.

“We try to avoid peaks and valleys. We want to have a constant steady incline. Maybe we can plateau a little, but we can’t experience drops,” Powell said.

In the first half, CJ Washington, a sophomore post-player, was taken out of the game for not shooting. Along with all his other teammates, he did all the right things, but instead of shooting, Washington passed the ball. Powell then took him out of the game after his second time deciding not to shoot. In the third quarter, he took a shot within the flow of the offense and was commended with a big thumbs up from Powell.

Washington has had a long journey from swinging between C-Team and JV a year ago to playing a lot of varsity minutes this year. The potential is there — he just has to seize it, according to Powell.

“I love his tenacity. He’s a hard-nosed, physical player, which we definitely need. He’s a capable offensive player. I think it’s just confidence to make those plays because he hasn’t been there,” the coach said.

Renton’s bench got involved as well. With Carlos Clark Jr. no longer on the team and Daniel Jackson Jr. sidelined with a wrist injury, the bench has had to step up. In the win over Franklin Pierce, the bench scored 21 points.

“Daniel is a huge loss… That’s a testament to all the guys stepping up. We have had a number of guys step up,” Powell said.

Junior Jordan Agosto had just nine points, but has thrived in the role of bringing some life to the Redhawks.

“He’s been coming off the bench for that spark. We’re having a number of guys that just contribute in different ways,” said Powell.

In the semi-final round of districts, Renton is matched up with Bremerton, a team that has been ranked inside the AP Top 10 the majority of the season. But Powell doesn’t concern himself with who they are playing, but how Renton will play.

“My focus is on us. I had to ask after the game (who we play) because I was so locked in … I’ve said before, I am more concerned about our guys in our locker room and coming out and playing our basketball. If we come out and play like we’re capable of playing, all the things we be okay regardless of who we are playing,” Powell said.

Renton’s game against Bremerton tips-off at Silas High School at 6 p.m. Feb. 15.

Renton freshman Micah Ili-Meneese receives a pass in the first quarter. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Renton freshman Micah Ili-Meneese receives a pass in the first quarter. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Dennis Johnson eyes down his teammates in the second half of the first round of the district tournament. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Dennis Johnson eyes down his teammates in the second half of the first round of the district tournament. Ben Ray / The Reporter