Redondo’s hoop dreams fall short after a surprising season under interim head coach Vic Martin
by Paul Teetor
The Redondo boys basketball team lost its Division 1 second round regional game 72-64 to Corona Centennial last Saturday to end its season a little sooner than last year, when it went all the way to the southern regional final at the Pyramid in Long Beach.
It was a game Redondo easily could have won: the Sea Hawks had a seven point lead in the third quarter, but were badly outscored in the fourth quarter to end their season on a disappointing note.
Senior star Ryse Williams led Redondo with 28 points in his final game, scoring almost half of Redondo’s point total. But he got little support from the rest of the team, including normally explosive subs Jace Bass and Zekiah Lovett, at crunch time.
“My super subs didn’t step up this time, but that’s the way it goes,” said interim head coach Vic Martin. “They played hard, but this time the shots weren’t falling. We just didn’t make the plays we had to make when we had the opportunities.”
Despite the frustrating loss, Martin said he was proud of the team that went 26-7 overall, won its fifth straight Bay League title with a 10-0 record and greatly exceeded all expectations after losing five of its top six players from last year’s championship squad — as well as absorbing the departure of head coach Reggie Morris, who took a one-year leave of absence to join the coaching staff at Loyola Marymount.
“It was a great year for the team, and a great year for me,” Martin told the Easy Reader a couple of days after the loss. “Everyone thought I would mess up the run Redondo has been on since Reggie took over, but we kept it going.”
Indeed, only shooting star Williams returned to play a significant role this season. Supporting him were players like 6-foot-2 guard Jailen Moore and 6-foot-9 center Quinn Collins as well as Bass and Lovett. These are players who had been in the Redondo program for several years but sat on the bench and watched as Morris’ senior-laden teams dominated the Bay League for four straight years and brought home a state championship in Morris’ first season.
The highlight of the season, Martin said, was the Sea Hawks’ 85-77 defeat of Santa Margarita in the second round of the Open Division Consolation bracket last month.
“They blew us out of the gym at our own tournament back in November,” Martin said. “So that was a very satisfying win.”
Martin was also encouraged by the season long improvement of Moore, who emerged over the second half of the season as a wingman to Williams, developing into a great outside shooter who took some of the pressure off Williams to score every time down the court.
“Jailen averaged 17 points a game in the playoffs, and that really helped us advance as far as we did,” he said.
More broadly, Martin said, simply the opportunity to be a head coach after working under Morris at both Leuzinger and Redondo was a highlight for him.
“Coaching these kids, and having my two sons Anthony Brown and Justin Martin, on my coaching staff, well, I couldn’t ask for anything more. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Martin said. “And my assistant Roy Walker, who played for me and Reggie at Leuzinger, was also a great help this season.”
The lowlight, he said, was losing the last game to Corona Centennial.
“All losses are painful, but that last loss was the most painful,” he said. “We had a real chance to win that game. Ryse took the loss real hard, and just seeing the disappointment on his face was tough.”
Looking ahead to next season, Redondo faces a lot of uncertainty after establishing such an elite level of excellence over the last five years.
With Williams heading off to Loyola Marymount, where he will continue to shoot deadly three-pointers and back down smaller defenders, only Collins, Lovett and Josh Maduno return as guys who played regularly this year. But Martin said he is confident the Redondo program has enough depth to continue producing good players and good teams.
“Our junior varsity has a lot of freshmen and sophomores who are what I call bubble kids – good enough to make varsity but they wouldn’t get playing time,” he said. “So it was better for their development to play JV and get a lot of playing time. They won the Bay League, so there are several of them I expect to get a lot of varsity playing time next year.”
Beyond the roster issues is the question of who will be the head coach. While Martin would love to have the interim tag removed, he realizes there are several obstacles. The first is that there is a very real chance that Morris will decide to return to Redondo when his one year leave of absence expires.
But if Morris does not decide to return, Redondo would then have to advertise the job and evaluate all the candidates before Martin could be named the permanent head coach.
“They have to do that, so I wouldn’t take it personal,” Martin said.
And Martin said he would be fine if Morris does decide to return.
“Reggie is like a son, like a brother and like a best friend to me,” Martin said. “I want him to do whatever makes him happiest.”
Redondo athletic director Andy Saltsman told the Easy Reader several weeks ago that Martin was doing a great job but that he planned to take his time after the season was over and consider all his options.
“We’re going to evaluate everything,” Saltsman said. “And then we’ll make a decision going forward.”
by Paul Teetor