Renton’s schedule has been the most difficult schedule in Head Coach Rashaad Powell’s career. Combined with the fact that the roster is younger than most teams he has coached, and he has been presented quite the challenge this season.
Renton was put to the test again on Jan. 15 during the Renton High MLK Day Tournament. The Redhawks hosted the Bellevue Wolverines, who finished fourth in the 3A state tournament in 2023.
Renton went toe-to-toe with the Wolverines. Bellevue needed a Hail Mary shot to get the game to overtime, where Renton fell to Bellevue, 84-75.
The loss stung a bit more than a regular loss via the circumstances: “It stings a lotta bit,” Powell said. “My hat goes off the Bellevue. They’re a well-coached team, good team. But we are too.”
It is definitely not the first time Renton has played a state caliber team this season and it won’t be the last. But that is by design. Even though the Redhawks’ record sits at 8-6, all six of the Redhawk losses are against teams that will be competing for a league or district title.
“This is the most rigorous non-conference schedule that we have had since I’ve been here,” Powell said.
The Sammamish loss shocked Powell and the Redhawks because the expectation was they wouldn’t get that upper level of competition that they lacked last year. But the Redhawks of Sammamish brought it and Powell thinks these games are going to help Renton in the long run.
“I didn’t think we would have gotten it from Sammamish, but aside from them, we haven’t gotten that level of players across the court night in night out in our league,” Powell said.
Renton was a little sluggish out of the gate against Bellevue, trailing 21-16, and Renton didn’t make a single three pointer.
In the second quarter, the Redhawks pulled even with the Wolverines at 23-23. Renton had 11 points from Dennis Johnson in the first half, keeping the Redhawks close. Bellevue ended the first half up by five, 35-30.
The second half was where Renton got going and the offense went through Jordan Agosto. Renton leaped to a 46-38 lead and was in the driver’s seat of the game. The Redhawks held Bellevue to just nine third quarter points, a game low. It came right before a game high for the blue and yellow.
It was a fourth quarter to forget for Powell and the Redhawks. Renton went on another solid 12-6 run in the fourth quarter, leading 60-51 over Bellevue. From there the Wolverines went berserk. Bellevue finished the game going 5 for 5 from beyond the arc.
“They made some tough shots. But a lot of the shots were in rhythm … It’s tough, but that’s part of the deal. You gotta make adjustments and take those away,” said Powell.
Bellevue’s Bryce Smith made the shot of the night, stopping on a dime after good defense from Agosto. Smith hoisted up a three that found the bottom of the net as time expired, sending the game to overtime at 70-70.
In the fifth quarter, Renton seemed to just run out of gas.
“I tell my guys we have to play 33 minutes,” Powell said, noting high school games have 32 minutes of regulation. “Make sure they go above and beyond and really make sure you finish… If you don’t do the whole deal then it doesn’t matter.”
After taking a quick 72-70 lead on the first shot from Marcus Ili-Menesse II, Renton didn’t make another basket until Micah Ili-Menesse hit a three-point shot with 15 seconds remaining.
“They’re really good, they are both very versatile,” Powell said.
This isn’t the first occurrence where Renton has been in position to win the game and their opponent finds a way to tie the game and eventually beat the Redhawks.
“To know that the things we covered and worked on, in those key critical moments break down. Those things are costing us games,” Powell said.
Just two players on the current Renton roster have played significant varsity minutes before this season — Agosto and Johnson. Renton as a whole is figuring out how to win these close uber-competitive games. It’s just taken a few losses to figure it out.
“The overall picture is these are experiences. They haven’t experienced finishing and winning. It is a skill like anything else. We have to learn how to win games,” Powell said.
Renton sits behind Sammamish in league and closes out Kingco play with a date against the Redhawks at home on Jan. 30.