Photocap 2 col = Brendan Behan launches a baseline jumper while Andrew Zahn screens out 7-1 Tyson Chandler. Dominguez upended Redondo 79-61 last Wednesday in the CIF semifinals. Photo by Kevin Cody. Photocap 2 col = Brendan Behan launches a baseline jumper while Andrew Zahn screens out 7-1 Tyson Chandler. Dominguez upended Redondo 79-61 last Wednesday in the CIF semifinals. Photo by Kevin Cody.

Photocap 1 col = Ryan Mollins drives past Micah McKinney for two of his team-high 14 points.

Dominguez ends Sea Hawk hopes

by John Tawa

It took the nation's top boys basketball team to derail Redondo's playoff run.

Last Wednesday at Loyola Marymount, the Dominguez Dons showed why they are the class of the country with a 79-61 win over a game Sea Hawk squad. Redondo ended its season 24-5.

The difference in the game was defense. The Dons, who go 10 deep, put the clamps on Redondo with a stifling man-to-man defense that forced the Hawks out of their passing game. The Hawks, who found themselves going one-on-one often, had only four assists the entire game.

"I thought their defense was overwhelming," said Redondo head coach Jim Nielsen. "They are so quick and they really stick you defensively. Their offense didn't bother us, but their defense did."

Despite the defensive pressure, Redondo was able to hang with Dominguez in the first quarter, as both teams came out tight. Andrew Zahn's baseline jumper got Redondo on the board first, but the Hawks missed their next nine shots. The Dons, meanwhile, turned over the ball frequently.

With 3:38 left in the first quarter, the Dons led 4-3, but Redondo outscored Dominguez 8-5 to take an 11-9 lead after one. A Dijon Thompson three-pointer and Adam Zahn stick back were Redondo highlights, but three fouls each by Ryan Mollins and Wendell White spelled trouble.

Redondo's lead didn't last long. Three triples by Micah McKinney and a fast break dunk by Sherman Gay offset two baskets by Andrew Zahn. Dominguez had a 21-15 lead midway through the second.

Mollins and Wendell White hit three pointers and Thompson glided to the hole for a deuce to keep the Hawks close at 28-24, but the Dons closed with a 7-0 run, including two easy buckets from Keith Brooks in the closing minute, to take a 35-24 halftime lead.

"When the score was 5-4 Redondo with three minutes left in the first quarter, I thought we had an excellent chance to upset them," Nielsen explained. "It started to slip away in the second quarter. When they got two steals and went down for lay-ups and put it to an 11-point lead, I thought that was pretty much the difference in the game right there."

Foul shooting also was a big difference in the first half, as Redondo managed to make just five free throws in 11 attempts. If the Hawks had made their free throws, the game's entire complexion would have changed, Nielsen asserted.

Redondo came out aggressively in the second half. A dunk by Andrew Zahn on Tyson Chandler, the Dons' 7-1 superstar center, brought the passive Redondo crowd to its feet. When a Zahn block led to Thompson's drive for two, the lead was just nine points.

That's when Dominguez turned up the defensive pressure a notch, forcing turnovers on the perimeter and controlling the glass. The Dons scored 12 of the next 16 points on transition baskets and foul shots. In a flash, the lead was 49-32.

Down 59-40 after three, Redondo had one more run left. A three-pointer by Walter White cut the lead to 60-44 with seven minutes left. Thompson had a chance to slice the lead further, but his three was off the mark. Two hoops by Dominguez followed, including a Steve Moore triple, and the lead was back to a comfortable 21 points.

"We made two runs in the second half, but didn't have enough energy to pull it back," Nielsen said.

Redondo had its share of fourth quarter highlights despite the deficit. Thompson made a circus move around Chandler for a reverse lay-up. Dylan Mathis got a rebound tip-in and Andrew Morris canned two threes late in the game.

For the game, the Sea Hawks shot 32 percent (19 for 60) from the field. They made 16 of 27 from the line. Mollins led Redondo with 14 points and six rebounds. Thompson had 13 points and nine rebounds and Zahn added 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Chandler (four dunks, one lay-up and nine free throws) led Dominguez with 19 points and six rebounds. McKinney added 16 points, including 4-for-5 from behind the arc.

After the game, some Redondo seniors talked about the game and their season.

"Part of me wants to cry because this is my last game and I've given my blood and tears and everything my body has to give," said Mathis, a three-year varsity player and two-year starter. "Dominguez is a great team. They just keep throwing guys out there like an army, wave after wave. We just couldn't match up with them. We gave it our best though, and I'm proud to say that I'm a Redondo Sea Hawk."

"Everybody played hard," added Walter White, a three-year varsity player and two-year starter. "I thought we had a successful season, playing together as a team and just having fun."

"I've had a great four years as a Sea Hawk," said Zahn, a four-year starter and All-American. "Redondo's been really good to me. High school in my mind is a stepping stone to get to the next level. The next level for me is college and then hopefully the pros. I feel that all the coaching staff here, Coach Nielsen especially, has done a great job in getting me ready for that next level."

Zahn added that, despite the loss, the season was a success.

"Expectations were so high and it got to us," he said. "But after we lost a couple of games and people lost faith in us, we turned it around and we kept going and persevered."

"It was one of the most challenging seasons I've ever had with extremely high expectations," said Nielsen. "I thought we rallied about a month ago and started to play the ball we were capable of. I thought our playoff run was pretty good. The only frustration I had was we should have won the league and we didn't, even though we won it technically."

Asked about his future plans, Nielsen, whose Sea Hawks have posted a 75-15 record over the past three years, paused.

"I have no plans to retire, but after every season I take a couple of months to consider my options," he explained. "I'm not going anywhere. No one's offered me a job. I'm not saying that at all. I just have to decide whether I want to go through another year because it's a tremendous strain emotionally to continue to coach. I'd like to come back, but I don't know whether I'm emotionally able to do it. That'll be the big question."

If Nielsen decides to come back, he'll coach a young, tall team loaded with potential, which should again contend for the Bay League title. Thompson, a smooth 6-7 wing guard, will be one of the nation's premier players. Sophomore Adam Zahn, 6-7 and growing, and 6-3 freshman Wendell White are explosive leapers and future superstars. At center, 6-11 sophomore Paul Meynen is improving every day. And the return of Keith Ellison from knee surgery and the continued development of Brendan Behan and Eddie Topps will stabilize the point guard position. ER