Coach Marcelo’s half time tough love propels Sea Hawks to So. Cal CIF finals

Bri Boyd ignired the Sea Hawks in the second half, ending the game with 21 points. Photo by Ray Vidal

by Paul Teetor

When Redondo girls basketball coach Marcelo Enriquez walked into the locker room during halftime of Saturday night’s CIF SoCal Regional Division 3 semifinal game against Oak Park he knew he had to do something he doesn’t like to do: jump all over his underachieving team.

It wasn’t just that Redondo was second-seeded and heavily favored over 11th seeded Oak Park. And it wasn’t just that they were playing on their home court and should have been far ahead instead of three points behind at 21-18.

Nor was it just that Oak Park was playing like they were the second-seeded team while Redondo was playing like the 11th seeded team. Or even that the Sea Hawks were led by superstar junior center 6-foot-4 Ella Zimmerman while Oak Park relied on 5-foot-6 freshman point guard Delaney White to generate most of their offense.

Zimmerman had done her job by scoring 8 of the team’s 18 first-half points. The problem was her teammates were deferring to her too much. They tried so hard to force the ball inside to her that she was swarmed by three or four defenders every time she caught a pass. Often the ball would get knocked loose, Oak Park would pick it up, and before you could blink White was powering her way to the hoop for another easy layup. 

Marcelo Enriquez turned the Sea Hawk’s game around with some strong advice. Photo by Ray Vidal

Redondo looked like it was playing not to lose instead of playing to win while Oak Park was playing free and easy, like a team with nothing to lose since they were expected to lose anyway.

“Our players needed a wake-up call. So I told them they were too tentative, that they needed to start competing,” Enriquez said moments after the game ended with Redondo on top by a score of 56-45. “I told them Ella can’t do it alone. Everyone else had to be confident in their shot, and play with no fear. if they had an open shot to take it, and not worry about it.”            

The first half malaise may have been because starting point guard Chloe Choy was sitting on the bench in crutches, through for the season after suffering a serious knee injury Thursday night against El Dorado in a second-round victory.

But for whatever reason the Sea Hawks offense was stuck in first gear, unable to generate any real momentum or rhythm while Oak Park’s White Zig-zagged all over the court and repeatedly got all the way to the basket for wide-open scoops and finger rolls.

“We weren’t cutting off her lanes to the basket,” Enriquez said. “And when we did, she was able to find the open player on the other side.”

The second half started the same way, with White going coast-to-coast for yet another easy layup, cutting through the Sea Hawk defense like a hot knife through butter.

But that’s when Enriquez’ half-time talk kicked in and the game turned around.

First Zimmerman powered in for a layup to make it 25-20. Then senior shooting guard Bri Boyd launched a three-pointer that pulled the Sea Hawks to within 25-23.

Elyse Cho hit on a corner three pointer to turn the momentum in the Sea Hawks’ favor. Photo by Ray Vidal

That shot ignited the home crowd, which started cheering wildly with new hope. Boyd responded by drilling another trifecta to give the Sea Hawks their first lead of the game at 26-25 with 5:36 left in the quarter.

Now the Sea Hawks were in full flight.

Zimmerman got free for a 10 foot jumper, Elyse Cho hit on a corner three and Zimmerman connected on a smooth baseline jumper to pump the lead up to 33-27. Zimmerman saved the best for last as she stole the ball with 7 seconds left in the quarter, raced the length of the court with her huge strides and softly laid it in for a 35-27 lead that drove the crowd wild and essentially ended the game.

The gritty Oak Park team kept fighting, and the sensational White – one of the best freshmen in SoCal and a player to keep an eye on in coming years – kept finding her way to the basket on her way to a game high 26 points. 

Mid-way through the fourth quarter Boyd launched a three-pointer from the right corner that hit the top of the backboard and fell through to give the Sea Hawks a 44-32 lead. Whether she meant to bank it in or not didn’t matter: it gave the Sea Hawks an insurmountable lead with just a few minutes to go.

“I don’t care how lucky it was,” Enriquez said. “We’ll take it.”

While the corner banked-in three was rare, even rarer still were the final stats: Zimmerman, with 20 points, was not Redondo’s high scorer.

That honor went to Boyd, who connected on four three-pointers and finished with 21 points.  

Now Redondo will travel to top-seeded Los Osos Tuesday night for the regional final. If they win that game, they will play the NorCal regional champion for the state title.

Contact: Follow: @paulteetor. ER


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