Mel Ninnis would have much rather had that postgame conversation in the Yakima SunDome.
But how cold this Clover Park High School team was shooting the basketball on Friday night, they might as well have played that game outside in the snow.
For the second consecutive season, the Warriors lost in the regional round of the 2A state tournament, this time, 58-49, against league-rival and eighth-ranked Renton at Auburn Mountainview High School.
“I just talked to the seniors and said, ‘Thank you.’ And told them how they grew as young men,” Minnis said. “And to the younger guys, I said, ‘If you don’t want to finish a season like this, you got to get better. You got about nine months to improve your game.
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“Because we want to have this meeting in Yakima. Not in the state regional round.”
Renton will be heading there for a first-round game on Wednesday after beating Clover Park for the third time thanks to a game-high 25 points from Jaloni Garner and 19 points from Deondre Russ, who hit a pair of momentum-building 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to put Clover Park away.
But the Warriors had every reason to think this would be the time they beat the 2A SPSL Sound champs. They had won 10 of their past 11 games since Martin Luther King Day.
And it’s really hard to beat a team three times.
“The funny thing is I never wanted to mention that part because I didn’t want to jinx us,” said Renton assistant coach Rashaad Powell, a Renton grad and former University of Idaho player who is being groomed to take over as the Indian’s head coach for Rick Comer.
“So I didn’t mention that one, but this is a testament to the resilience of the group. They stuck with it, even against the league MVP and a hall-of-fame coach.”
But Clover Park had one of the toughest shooting nights Ninnis said he’s ever been a part of.
Davien Harris-Williams, the 2A SPSL Sound’s MVP this season, was held to a season-low four points. That’s 39 points fewer than he scored in a win over River Ridge on Dec. 21.
He and normal sharpshooter Anthony Grassi was off, too. Those two combined to go 3-for-30 from the field.
“We obviously didn’t shoot the ball well tonight,” Ninnis said. “Just sometimes the brown thing doesn’t go in the round thing, and you got to rely on your rebounding and defense to make up for it.”
But how about Jon Sealey?
When the Warriors couldn’t buy a bucket, the 6-foot-7 forward kept Clover Park in the game, finishing with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Clover Park led 27-23 at halftime and despite making 2 of 19 shots in the third quarter, trailed just 37-34 heading into the fourth quarter – and it seemed that at some point, finally, those shots would fall.
They did – but they were by players in Renton jerseys.
Russ’ first 3-pointer of the final quarter gave Renton a 46-38 lead as he skipped his way back on defense. Clover Park called timeout and Ninnis tried to infuse his team with some confidence.
“You gotta believe, you gotta believe!” he shouted during the timeout. “We’re in great shape.”
But Harris-Williams missed two free throws the ensuing Clover Park possession, it got the rebound and Harris-Williams missed two more free throws and it got another rebound before Harris-Williams, who entered averaging more than 21 points per game, missed another 3-pointer.
“We really got shots we wanted,” Ninnis said. “We just couldn’t get them to go in.”
Russ followed with another 3 to push Renton’s lead to 49-38 with 3:24 to play.
Harris-Williams finished his scintillating four-year career with 1,464 career points.
“He never ran away from the lights,” Ninnis said. “He would always stand with his chest out and would take any big shot we needed. He never wavered from the heat of the moment.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
CLOVER PARK; 10; 17; 7; 15; --; 49
No. 8 RENTON; 13; 10; 14; 21; --; 58
Clover Park: Anthony Grassi 8, Tre McDaniel 6, Ranique Mosely 4, Davien Harris-Williams 4, Jon Sealey 21, Stanley Green 2, Tre Shaw 4.
Renton: Deondre Russ 19, Jaloni Garner 25, Peyton Valentine 5, Jaden Locke 6, Edward Barquet 3.