Hornets claim league title and take top seed to district

Junior guard Coleman Clyde puts up a shot during Friday night’s victory over White River.

The wonderful element for the Enumclaw High boys basketball squad – fresh from its coronation as South Puget Sound League 3A basketball champion – is that Friday’s encounter with Renton High is for seeding purposes alone.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Foster High School.

If Enumclaw beats Renton it will move on as the No. 1 seed to the West Central District tournament and play at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 at Auburn High against the No. 2 seed out of the the Olympic-Western Cascade League.

If the Hornets lose to Renton, they’ll be the No. 2 seed and play at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 at Franklin Pierce High, paired against a yet-to-be-determined foe.

Renton’s Indians have been the equivalent of a brick wall in the past two EHS cage campaigns. Last year a dramatic shot from the top of the key with one second remaining was the difference in Enumclaw finishing fifth or eighth in the state tournament.

The year before that (2007), the Hornets had their hopes of advancing to the state tournament stonewalled when a Renton player made a 10-foot baseline jumper as time expired.

“For the past two years it has been Renton that ended our season early and sent us home from the state tournament,” Hornet coach Phil Engebretsen said.

This year Renton went undefeated (16-0) in the Seamount League and is ranked third in the 3A state polls, where Enumclaw is ranked fifth.

Enumclaw finished its league season by crushing Franklin Pierce 52-36 Feb. 11 and winning the Hornet-Hornet battle against White River Friday, staving off a concerted effort by a fiesty White River gang and eventually prevailing 64-55.

“It was nice to clinch the league title and finish the regular season on a high note, being ranked fifth in state,” Engebretsen said. But he knows everyone starts fresh when postseason play begins.

The must-win games come after the Renton game for seeding, Engebretsen said, but “it would be great to get that Renton monkey off our back and head into the district tourney with even more momentum by beating Renton for a change.”

Renton’s solitary setback during its 17-1 regular season came in a nonleague affair at the hands of Bellevue High before the holiday break and the Indians have been accustomed to nothing but conquests since. Renton has won as a team, in the strictest since of the word, thus far this year and doesn’t boast any highly touted individual scorers in the top 10 of the Seamount League’s leading scorers.

If there is an Indian to keep an eye peeled for, it is Achoki Moikobu, Renton’s 5-foot-9 junior ballhandling ace. Moikubo is deadly from the free-throw line, hitting 85 percent of his attempts. In one league encounter this season, Moikubo went 18-for-19 in the free-throw department.

Reach John Leggett at jleggett@courierherald.com or 360-802-8207.