The Sound Division title is still up for grabs in the Class 2A South Puget Sound League.
But, the River Ridge High School boys basketball team needs a few things to happen to take it again.
Following a second consecutive loss to Highline, 66-58, on Friday night, the Hawks (12-5, 8-3) are squarely in second place.
“We just couldn’t get over that hump tonight. … I think we’ve just got to refocus,” River Ridge coach John Barbee said.
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Renton, a team River Ridge has topped twice this year, is alone in first place with two games left to play.
River Ridge — which has won at least a share of the 2A SPSL title each of the three years it has been in the league — has to beat Clover Park, Orting and Tyee next week to make it plausible.
Renton has to lose at least once, with Orting and Highline remaining on its schedule.
“We’ve got to hope now,” Barbee said.
Highline proved capable, for the second time this season, of squashing River Ridge’s chances to remain atop the division.
The Pirates (10-8, 8-4) edged the Hawks, 62-61, in Burien back in December.
“They attack really well, and we’ve just got to learn how to stay in front of them,” River Ridge guard Alex Coleman said.
“It’s just a tough matchup for us,” Barbee said.
River Ridge led by as many as four points at multiple points during the game, but couldn’t hold off Genaro Castaneda, who led the Pirates with 20 points — including four 3-pointers.
Castaneda sunk his final 3-pointer when he pulled up over Coleman with 7 minutes, 5 seconds to play.
He converted another bucket less than a minute later to give Highline the final lead at 49-48, as part of a 15-5 run.
The Hawks trimmed the lead to five points on Kolton Knox’s basket off a turnover with a minute left, but that’s as close as they got to regaining the lead.
Josh Kennedy led River Ridge with 21 points, while Jordan Skipper-Brown added 17. Many of the Hawks’ baskets came in transition, after forced turnovers.
“Our transition is probably our bread and butter,” Coleman said. “I feel like we did good on that.”
Barbee also acknowledged the two pieces River Ridge was missing on Friday.
“Some of it, too, is we’ve got so much going on,” he said. “It starts with us as coaches. We’ve got to do a better job of getting guys ready, of getting them focused.
“We’ve got a lot of distractions, but we can’t let our distractions be our excuses.”
Trey Dorfner, who was River Ridge’s leading scorer averaging 12.7 points per game, moved to Georgia a week ago.
Kelle Sanders, a powerful tool in the paint for the Hawks, is in Utah on a football recruiting trip.
“We miss their swagger, we miss their humor, we miss their leadership,” Barbee said.
Barbee said Dorfner is one of the most competitive student-athletes he’s seen at River Ridge.
This is the second game the Hawks have played without Dorfner — they beat Eatonville, 52-46, on Tuesday.
“I think there are things bigger than basketball, but I think that there’s a residual effect that their absence has on other guys,” Barbee said.
Barbee tasked himself and the rest of his coaching staff with helping the team refocus before a three-game week next week.
“This is not the time of year you want to mix it up,” he said. “You want to be playing your best basketball.”
Coleman echoed what the Hawks need to do to regroup: “Just come back, just try to focus, and really just come to play,” he said.
Highline 14 16 14 22_66
River Ridge 18 5 22 13_58
H – Hood 5, Willis 10, Walker 13, Martinez 8, Shahzaad 2, Castaneda 20, Burcham 4, Moormeier 4
RR – Coleman 3, Cannon 3, Skipper-Brown 17, Washington 7, Larson 3, Knox 3, Kennedy 21, Valerio 1