By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu Sports Editor
REDONDO BEACH – Trailing by a basket with less than one second to play – and the opponent possessing the ball – you’d assume your team is headed for certain defeat.
On Wednesday night, you would have been dead wrong.
Trailing 46-44 and defending with a mere 0.6 seconds left in regulation, the girls of Redondo Union pulled off two amazing plays to score the tying basket and ran away in overtime en route to a 66-54 victory over visiting San Clemente, in the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA quarterfinals.
Down by as much as 13 points midway through the fourth quarter, the Sea Hawks maintained a steely composure to chip away at the deficit, helped by poor free-throw shooting by San Clemente down the stretch.
With four seconds remaining, Redondo failed to convert on their possession, losing the ball out of bounds and leaving just 0.6 seconds on the clock.
In a defensive clamp-down for the ages, the home team swarmed the visitors, not allowing San Clemente an inbound pass, leading to a five-second violation and a turnover.
At that point, Redondo head coach Marcelo Enriquez knew exactly whose number to call.
“We’ve practiced this play so many times, and I knew the play would go to Ella [Zimmerman] and I felt confident she would make it,” said Redondo senior Kyra Arakawa, who was tasked with getting the ball in to a teammate who could score within half a second.
The 6-foot-4 junior barely had time to catch the ball and loft it toward the net, where it rattled a few times before sinking through as the buzzer sounded.
“That’s why I love this game,” Arakawa beamed.
The Redondo gymnasium erupted into pademonium, with parents in disbelief, cheerleaders in tears and school staff exchanging leaping high-fives.
Redondo kept its collective foot on the accelerator in overtime, beginning the extra frame with an 8-0 run and outscoring San Clemente 20-8 in the period.
Junior guard Ashley Minei had limited playing time in the game, but was spearheading the chants of support from the bench from the opening whistle.
“I knew we had a chance when Coach called that last play,” she explained. “All I had to do was keep the positive energy going.”
Redondo was led by Bri Boyd’s 26 points. Zimmerman finished with 15 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks, and Chloe Choy scored 16.
Minei’s father, David, had feared the aftermath of a loss that never came.
“I was worried that we were going to have a very quiet car ride home,” he said.
Instead, there will be at least one more trip to the gym, as Redondo will host No. 1 seed La Salle tonight, with the winner earning a berth to play for the Div. 2AA championship trophy.
• • •
Elsewhere Wednesday in the CIF playoffs:
In Div. 1, Esperanza mounted a spirited comeback after trailing 28-12 at the half, but came up short in their quarterfinal against Rosary Academy, 44-38.
The Aztecs, with Janelle Miyatake, Charlotte Muller and Lacie Miyatake, finish their season at 25-5.
• • •
The girls of Mark Keppel punched their ticket to the Div. 2A semifinals, cruising in the second half en route to a 60-46 win over Portola.
Maile Tamaki, Jayde De Leon, Jasmine Yoshitake, Madison Kobayashi, Kylie Sakatani, Kylie Ng, Kiele Ohashi and company host Maile Naito and Brentwood tonight.
Brentwood advanced with a 66-57 decision over Cypress, who feature Sara Shigekawa, Kailani Amuro and Lauryn Nakamura.
• • •
In 2AA action, Santa Monica, with Kalea Oshidari, fell to Hart, 62-44.
• • •
South Torrance saw their season end with a 78-44 loss to Rancho Christian in the Div. 3A quarters. Keira Sakamoto, Kylie Hayashi, Keira Nakamura and the Spartans wrap their season at 18-13.
• • •
In Div. 4A, Mia Shimabukuro, Dy’lan Niimi and Notre Dame Academy are headed to the semifinals, after downing California Lutheran, 53-28. The Regal Gryphons will face Bishop Diego tonight.
• • •
In Div. 4AA, La Habra, with Megan Hamabe, were ousted by Rialto, 65-57.
Irvine, with Haruka Mikuma and Nozomi Mikuma, are also finished for the season after their 68-50 loss to Buena Park.
• • •
Gahr, with Alyssa Miyake and Lauryn Teramoto, are headed to tonight’s Dev. 5AA simfinals, where they will meet Amanda Marumoto and Marina.
Nora Ito and Immaculate Heart fell to St. Margaret’s, 60-47.
Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo