Renton High School’s boys basketball season has not been an easy one so far in its 2023-24 regular season campaign.
That’s just how Head Coach Rashaad Powell wanted it, but Renton has now lost three of their last four after falling in double overtime on the road to Sammamish, 76-74, on Jan. 9 — with their record now at 7-5.
“There’s going to be nights when shots don’t fall. But the thing we can always control is how we defend and rebound. We didn’t do those things and our shots didn’t fall. It was a perfect storm for this kind of thing to happen,” Powell said.
Renton entering the matchup had beaten Sammamish six out of eight times since joining the KingCo league.
“My hat goes off to Sammamish,” Powell said. The Renton head coach and athletic director is good friends with Sammamish AD Wesley Newton, who helps coach Sammamish. “We talk hoops a lot. Every time we talk, he talks about how excited his guys are to play us. They were prepared and locked in,” Powell said.
Fans in attendance knew this game was going to be close and just had to look at the first quarter. Renton got out in front of Sammamish early, but the Redhawks of Sammamish found a way to even up the score. Dennis Johnson and Daniel Jackson Jr. both had seven points in the first quarter, but needed some help to separate from Sammamish. The two sides were deadlocked at 21 at the close of the quarter.
In the second quarter, Jackson Jr. was the lifeline on offense for Renton. He finished with 12 points in the first half and ended with 25.
“He’s been great. It’s his first year of any high school basketball and for us to thrust him into that role, he’s doing a good job. He’s being coachable and working hard and giving us that additional spark,” Powell said.
The third quarter was a quarter to forget for Renton. After leading by one at halftime, Renton scored just one field goal in the entire third quarter. That basket was made at the 39 second mark by Ronnie Toms. Five free throws were the only points keeping Renton in the game as they trailed by six going into the fourth quarter.
Johnson got the Redhawks going in the fourth quarter. After being down 49-54, Renton went on a 5-0 run and tied the game for the first time since early in the third quarter. Renton was even in front of the Redhawks, 59-56, with under 10 seconds to go. But missed free throws and a Sammamish rebound gave Rakin Showki a chance to send the game to overtime, and he did. Showki pulled up from beyond the arc and drained the three to tie the game with two seconds left.
It was the Sammamish possession before that final three from Showki that Powell was disappointed with.
“With the youthfulness of our guys, we don’t understand that you got to come out, compete and execute every single night. I don’t think we followed or adhered to our game plan at all. We didn’t box out. The game should have been over when they missed the free throw and got an offensive rebound and extended the game,” Powell said.
In overtime, Renton got four big points from Jackson Jr. to take the lead on put-backs. The Sammamish and Renton fans along with the Sammamish band created an electric environment that elevated the intensity of the game, and the players felt it.
In the final seconds of the first overtime period, Keith Kariuki was at the free throw line with a chance to tie the game. Powell tried to ice the senior at the free throw line by calling back to back timeouts: “Yeah that was our plan. What is funny is he makes those and then in double OT misses both of his free throws. Like we needed you to miss those last time,” Powell said with a slight chuckle. Kariuki nailed both free throws to tie the game and finished with 17 points and was one of four Redhawks to finish in double figures (Layton, Rak. Showki, Morrissette).
Renton once again found itself in front of Sammamish in the second overtime period by a point with Dennis Johnson at the free throw line up 76-75. Johnson made one, but missed the second, and Sammamish took the ball down the floor and found Jacob Leyton for three on the right side of the floor — and he drilled the three-pointer to ice the game. As the last three seconds wound off the clock, Renton couldn’t get a shot off and Sammamish walked away with the win.
Powell’s side was in front of Sammamish with a chance to win in both overtimes and the fourth. Sammamish showed incredible resolve, but for Renton to have the postseason success they desire, they have to be able to close out games.
“The competitive part of me wants to be mad. The coaching part understands that they got to learn. I have guys that are inexperienced and haven’t been in these moments,” Powell said.
In Renton’s starting five, there is just one senior.
“The only way you’re going to get these experiences is to experience it. For me it’s a good takeaway. Even though we lost, it’s an experience,” Powell said.
The win signified the end of a three-year streak of Renton dominance over the KingCo. Since 2020, Renton had won 26 straight KingCo League games. Lindbergh was the last team to beat Powell’s squad 64-60.
Renton has a win percentage of .935 since joining KingCo in 2020 and overall is just under 80% at .793. When a team wins that much, their fall is what opponents long for.
“Hopefully this is a wake up call. I haven’t found out what fully motivates them. There are groups in the past where these kinds of games would be the motivator,” Powell said. Renton has had a difficult schedule up to this point in the year and will get tougher facing West Valley on Jan. 16.