Redondo Defenses Women Of Troy, 53-39

Struggling at 6-6 early in the season against one of the nation's most demanding schedules, no one expected the Redondo Union girls basketball team to be contending for the Southern California Regional title Saturday afternoon. Except for Sea Hawk players, of course, four seniors and six juniors who never doubted that their veteran team, when healthy, could reach the promised land and win. That's exactly what they did, playing stifling defense to down Troy, 53-39, in the Div. II final.

"They're a tough team," said Troy coach Kevin Kiernan. "They play really good defense."

If you looked at Troy's stats, that would appear to be an understatement. On the game, the Warriors shot just 28 percent from the field. Star point guard Alicia Komaki scored a game-high 16 points, but missed her first 10 shots and was scoreless at the half. Star post player Amanda Livingston, who had eight points at the half, scored only a single free throw in the second half. And the transition baskets, which have been a Troy trademark, were very hard to come by against a Redondo team that hustled end line to end line for 32 minutes.

But as Redondo put the clamps on Troy defensively, the Sea Hawks struggled to score in the first half, inching out to a 17-14 lead at the break despite getting virtually no offensive contribution from 2000 CIF-Southern Section player of the year Ofa Tulikihihifo.

But the 5-foot-8 senior, who missed the first month of the season while rehabbing a torn ACL, came out smoking in the second half. She scored the first two baskets to stretch Redondo's lead to a commanding seven points. The lead would eventually grow to double digits midway through the third quarter.

"We were able to extend her spark," explained senior guard Jennifer Owens, who scored eight points. "It lit the flame for our team. We didn't want to give them a chance to come back."

Tulikihihifo scored all 14 of her points in the second half and snagged eight of her game-high 13 rebounds after the break, demonstrating the form that before the injury made her one of the most feared competitors in CIF.

"I think it took me a half to realize that this could be my last game," she said.

Another senior, post player Krista Areyan, scored 13 points and pulled down five boards for Redondo (26-7), which is 20-1 since January 1. The Sea Hawks, who advanced to the regional final two years ago only to lose to Brea-Olinda, go for their first-ever state title on Saturday in Sacramento against St. Mary's of Stockton, which upset Pinewood of Los Altos Hills, 66-54.


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