Randy Angel

Season recap: Redondo’s boys basketball team goes for local talent

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Junior forward Xan Wesley will return to lead Redondo’s basketball team in the 2019-20 campaign. Photo by Ray Vidal

By Paul Teetor

The Redondo boys basketball team lost its first and only post-season game last week, an 81-60 thumping at the hands of Harvard-Westlake in the CIF Division 1 playoffs.

Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, which had beaten Redondo 62-39 earlier in the regular season, was unable to pull away until the second half. Led by Johnny Juzang, a 6-foot-7 junior who is ranked among the top 20 players of the class of 2020, they maintained a steady 5-10-point lead until the second half and then asserted their dominance.

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“They beat us with their size and their shooting,” said Redondo Head Coach Ali Parvez. “We’d already played them once, so I knew we would have to play a perfect game to beat them. We weren’t able to do that.”

But the early end to the season after so many deep playoff runs in recent seasons didn’t prevent the second-year Sea Hawk coach from declaring the 2018-19 season a success with an overall record of 20-9 and a Bay League record of 8-2.

The first and most important factor in that evaluation: “We won the Bay League for the seventh straight season,” he said. “That was the high point, along with winning the Mission Prep Christmas Classic back in December.”

And there was a special significance to this year’s Bay League Championship: it was achieved by a senior class – five of the top six players were seniors – who all lived in Redondo. Under former Head Coach Reggie Morris, seven years ago Redondo began importing a lot of transfer players who lived out of district. That trend peaked with the arrival of 6-foot-10 Billy Preston, a top 15 player nationally, three years ago. He had already played for two Southern California high schools before enrolling at Redondo as a 17-year-old sophomore, and he quit the team and left the school in mid-season. Within a week he was playing for a Texas prep school, and ended up attending five high schools before earning a scholarship to Kansas University as a 20-year-old freshman. But he created a scandal when he crashed an expensive car and left college before ever playing a game for Kansas, and is now playing for the Erie Bay Hawks in the G-League.

The Preston experience was a profound embarrassment for the school, and soon the word was out: no more out of district transfers. Those already enrolled were allowed to stay, but the last of them graduated last year.

“This senior class was a really special one,” Parvez said. “They’re all Redondo kids who waited their turn, worked hard in practice to get better, and absorbed our championship culture.”

Unlike past seasons, however, Redondo did not dominate the Bay League this year. In fact, they squeaked in as sole champions on the last night of the regular season when Palos Verdes beat Peninsula by a single point. If Peninsula had won that game they would have been co-champions with Redondo.

But it was even closer than that: Redondo needed to beat Mira Costa in the final regular season game just to finish with an 8-2 league record after losing home games to both PV and Peninsula. But instead of coming out and letting Costa know they had no chance, the Sea Hawks fell behind by a score of 9-0 and trailed 23-18 at halftime.

Indeed, were it not for a stranger-than-fiction plot twist Redondo might have lost to Mira Costa. Before the game, Parvez promised every senior that they would get to play for at least two minutes. One of those seniors, Liam Barrett, had played only two minutes all year and hadn’t scored a point. But as soon as he was inserted for his guaranteed two minutes in the second half, he launched a three-pointer that hit nothing but net. Then he hit another, and another, and yet another. Within 10 minutes he had scored 14 points and given the Sea Hawks a lead they would never relinquish.

“That Mira Costa game was a real highlight of the season,” Parvez said. “I was so proud of Liam and the other seniors for fighting back to win that game.”

Of course, there were low-lights too. The 46-39 loss to Peninsula at home was one of the worst. “We had a tough scoring game, too many turnovers, too many missed foul shots,” he said. “And we couldn’t score at all in the last few minutes.”

While five of the top six players are graduating, junior Xan Wesley, the bullish 6-foot-5 forward who was arguably the Sea Hawks’ best player, will return along with several other players who were contributors off the bench.

“Trent Smith, one of our better perimeter defenders, Dominic Walker, who came on late in the season, and Jack Dickinson, who can really shoot the ball, will all be back for us,” he said.

In addition, there are three freshmen who started on the junior varsity and could well be important players for the varsity next year as sophomores.

“Peter Davis, Bradley Bennett and Lucas Smith all have a chance to contribute next year,” Parvez said. “We always want to give guys a chance to practice hard and improve. The players make the program. We’ve had a good run for the last seven years and we want to keep it going.”

Contact: teetor.paul@gmail.com. Follow: @paulteetor

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