Neff-Warner helps Meadowdale get off to fast start

TACOMA — After showing up late to Thursday’s shoot around and being subsequently benched to begin Meadowdale’s second game of the 3A boys state tournament, Riley Neff-Warner wanted to make amends quickly Friday.

Back in the starting lineup, he surprised Renton and its full-court press with 12 points in the first half while the tournament’s second-leading scorer, Connor Hamlett, struggled to find scoring opportunities.

Neff-Warner kept the Mavericks in the game early and Hamlett closed it out late as Meadowdale rolled into the fifth-place game with a 44-36 victory over Renton at the Tacoma Dome.

“I had a good first game (against Enumclaw) and didn’t really show up yesterday, so I wanted to put my name out there again and make some plays,” Neff-Warner said.

The senior guard had 12 points in the Enumclaw loss, then just three coming off the bench Thursday before chipping in 13 against the Indians.

“Early on they attacked with the guards to the basket and that killed us,” Renton coach Rick Comer said. “That was something that we thought we were prepared to stop.”

With the Mavs unable to find Hamlett in position to score, Neff-Warner asserted himself. The senior guard drove the lane, elevated — multiple times switching hands in mid air — and converted. He shot 6-for-9 and finished with 12 of the Mav’s 24 points in the first two quarters.

Neither team could get any separation in the first half and no lead was larger than Renton’s 16-12 advantage early in the second quarter.

After Mav coach Chad McGuire called a timeout, Neff-Warner scored on consecutive trips down the court to tie the score.

Neither team scored on two straight trips down the floor until the end of the fourth quarter and the score was deadlocked at 24 at the break with seven lead changes and seven ties.

Hanley Shum kept the Indians close with a game-high 16 points on 3-for-5 shooting for long range. His free throw that opened the fourth quarter gave Renton its final lead of the game at 34-33.

The Mavs shut down Renton’s leading scorer, Achokie Moikobu, holding him to zero points.

McGuire gave credit to Renton for holding Hamlett below his 24-point tournament average entering the game, but they couldn’t shackle the 6-foot-8 center for 32 minutes.

The Mavs never led by more than four until, leading just 39-36, Hamlett scored five of his 15 points in the final two minutes and the defense held Renton to just three points in the fourth quarter. He had 13 rebounds and recorded his third double-double in a row.

Now assured of at least eighth place, Meadowdale (21-7) advanced to today — the team’s goal entering the tournament — and face Franklin (17-13), which got 34 points from Anrio Adams in a 82-55 win over North Central.

The Quakers knocked Meadowdale into the consolation round a year ago on their way to the 3A title and the Mavericks have not forgotten.

“It will be a lot of fun,” Neff-Warner said. “We are looking for some revenge. We were able to hang with them for a half last year and then they kind of turned it on.”

At the Tacoma Dome

Meadowdale1113911—44

Renton121293—36

Meadowdale—Neff-Warner 13, Linton 0, Werner 3, Beucherie 1, Tallman 2, Dooley 0, Sand 10, Buck 0, Hamlett 15. Renton—Edwards 0, Jenkins 2, Shum 16, Moikobu 0, Briggs 6, Kosten 0, Thomas 6, Powell 0, Bennett 6, Eubanks 0, Colton 0, Thornton 0. 3-point goals—Shum 3, Hamlett 1, Werner 1. Records—Meadowdale 21-7overall. Renton, 15-14.

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