Hoops: Renton boys take sixth at state

Renton goes 1-2 in SunDome, take home some hardware for the second time since 2019.

A tournament that started as one to forget for the Renton Redhawks boys basketball team ended as one to remember.

Coming in as the number four seed and waiting for their opponent in the quarterfinals, Renton was in a prime position to get back to the semifinals for the second time since 1967.

After a hot start, Renton went ice cold against the Bremerton Knights in the quarterfinals and were sent to the consolation bracket with a 65-60 loss on Feb. 29 at the Yakima SunDome.

As the calendar flipped to March, the Redhawks were faced with a dual reality: Buckle down and finish strong, or pack it in and fold against a familiar foe.

To make it to the Saturday, March 2 game, on Friday, Renton faced Sammamish High School for the fourth time this season. Renton has looked strides better than Sammamish in the last two matchups, winning by 13 and three points in the KingCo tournament. That spell of play continued following the loss to Bremerton in a big way. Renton sent Sammamish packing with an ultra-convincing 67-47 win, guaranteeing a place in this year’s 2A state tournament.

“We played the game which I was glad for. I wish this same group that showed up today, showed up yesterday,” Coach Rashaad Powell said.

Renton’s defense showed out in the first two quarters against their rivals from up north. In the first half, Renton held Sammamish to just 19% from the field, while also creating 25 points off turnovers in the game.

It was a solid response from Renton as a whole. Renton just didn’t play well against a hot Bremerton side the night before.

The second half was more of the same. Freshman Micah Ili-Meneese found his groove in the final half as well. He had just six points against Bremerton, but finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. He is the future of Renton basketball, along with his sophomore brother Marques.

“The same stuff he did today was what he did yesterday, he just had a tough offensive day… He bounced back,” Powell said.

Renton entered the final day of play against the Prosser Mustangs, a team that the Redhawks are relatively unfamiliar with. Renton has played the Mustangs just one time in basketball history, back in 1932 in the state quarterfinals.

The final score of the lone meeting was 32-22, with Renton advancing to the semifinals. This time around, there was a fourth place finish at stake. The Mustangs avenged that 90-year old loss to Renton with a 68-64 win.

Sixth place is the second time Renton has placed under Powell — Renton placed third in Powell’s first season back in 2019.

Renton came out with a different starting five than they usually do. Seniors Juan Diaz and Ray Clewis were in the starting lineup. Neither Diaz nor Clewis had racked up many minutes this season, but as seniors who didn’t get to start on senior night, Powell wanted to give them a chance for their flowers in the final game of Renton’s season.

“They didn’t get the opportunity to start on senior night. So they are probably the two guys who never started a game throughout the season. With this being the last game, I wanted to give them that opportunity,” Powell said.

Clewis had never played on a high school basketball team before this year and has gone through a lot this season.

“He has a unique story for just being a part of the team. I wanted to give him the opportunity to have his name called… To be able to say he started a state basketball game is a bigger-than-basketball type thing,” Powell said.

It was a slow start for the Redhawks, with Marques Ili-Meneese scoring all five Renton points in the first.

But the Redhawks, as they have all season, continued to fight to get back in the game. Jordan Agosto had been starting for the majority of the season, but Powell wanted someone to bring a spark off the bench. Agosto was that person, and he excelled at it.

“The only reason I made a move (to put him on the bench) was because we needed somebody to come off the bench. He without a doubt is one of our five best guys. But if we start all the best five guys, there is nobody to sub, and there is a tremendous drop-off,” said Powell.

Agosto finished with 17 points, which tied Ili-Meneese for a team high in the loss.

“He’s played great basketball in that role. He’s been tremendous for us, he’s a heck of a player. He is dynamic, athletic, can defend and can score. He has a good IQ, he’s been a key and I have been really proud of him this season,” said Coach Powell.

Renton had dug themselves a hole and just couldn’t find their way out. Right before halftime, Renton had cut the Mustang lead to three, thanks to some solid play from Dennis Johnson. But that was the closest Renton had gotten as the first half closed 28-25, advantage Prosser.

Renton trailed by 11 heading into the fourth quarter, but the fight was still there. Johnson and Agosto tried their best and cut the lead to one possession, but faltered every time a chance to tie presented itself. There were no lead changes and no ties in the game, but Renton applied a lot of pressure.

“We’ve played games where things haven’t gone our way… We’ve gotta go play. We try and prepare ourselves for things we have to go do and block ourselves out. It is what it is,” said Powell.

Over the course of the season, Renton played a gauntlet of a regular season schedule. Their non-conference schedule was one of the toughest schedules in the entire state regardless of classification. That road was put in place to get Renton to be better prepared for state, and in fact it did.

It is the 16th time Renton High School has had a boys team take home a trophy, and for this team, they should be proud of the sixth-place finish.

“I began the conversation today, ‘We might not be playing in the game that we want to. But you have an opportunity to go finish for a piece of hardware… Thirty, forty, fifty years from now when someone comes back to Renton High School and sees the 2024 trophy you can say you were a part of that. That’s a lasting legacy,” said Powell.