Renton High School’s girls basketball team was up in the clouds a year ago, coming off a district championship and a state tournament appearance — their seventh under Head Coach Tim White.
This year, however, is much different. After graduating four of the five starters from that state squad, Renton has struggled to find their way this season.
The Redhawks are now 3-9 this season after a 75-54 loss to Kent-Meridian on Jan. 4 inside the Renton gymnasium.
The stories of the night were defensive adjustments and Leilah Spalding.
White told The Reporter earlier this year that “it’s a work in progress.” Despite the loss, White saw the progress he was looking for.
“We had nine players instead of six. That gives us a chance to give our starters a break and catch their breath. They’re running a new offense and they executed that. They’ve got a very high basketball IQ,” White said.
Early on, Kent-Meridian focused on getting the ball inside, having two six-footers much taller than anything Renton had to offer. Cymone Blowe for the Royals had 13 points in the first quarter. To the credit of the Renton players, White gave them adjustments and they executed.
“They’re smart and they’re listening,” White said.
He instructed the girls to jam the center before they got the ball to the left, and “they made that adjustment. That’s progress. That is very much progress,” White said.
The Redhawks were able to hang with Kent-Meridian after their hot start in the first quarter. Spalding was the answer. She ended the night with 32 points on eight three-pointers. Her best quarter was the first, with four baskets from beyond the arc.
White couldn’t say enough good things about his sharp shooting junior: “She was on fire and can consistently be that way. She’s a student of the game and continually works on getting better … She’s being a lot more patient and that has helped out a lot.”
Renton and the Royals were tied at 38-38 at halftime. Teagan Petek played a big role to take the load off of Spalding. Those two Redhawks scored 72% of the Renton points in the loss. The combination of those two works as translators for White.
“They’re both leaders and they’re pretty much extensions of the coaches. They’re translating everything,” White said.
In the second half, Renton managed to score just 16 points, and Spalding had 12 of those 16 points.
“The battery kind of just ran out,” said White.
But White has a plan to recharge that battery and help it run for longer. The first part was to get players eligible, and it’s time to stay aggressive in the second half.
“Our next phase is to better prepare them to play defense and offense and have role players,” White said.
Despite not filling up the win column, Renton is focused on development throughout the season. White and the Redhawks started watching film to help find other ways to fine tune their game and iron out details that are better explained visually.
“We sit down and review game film and see how those guys perform and how we perform … It’s helped us a lot and has helped better prepare us for what’s to come,” White said.
The goal for this Redhawk team is to finish inside the top two in the league.