Just before the Bishop Diego girls basketball team took the floor for its semifinal game against Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa Saturday night, coach Jeff Burich reminded the team of a commercial that aired during the Olympics a few years ago.
The 2018 ad for Visa featured the famous tune “Anything You Can Do,” and Burich wanted his team to know that they could emulate the success of the boys team, which advanced the CIF-SS Div. 5AA championship game Friday night after defeating Vistamar.
“I told them, ‘that’s our motto. The boys did it (Friday) night, but I’ll tell you anything that they can do, you guys can do better,’” Burich said following the Cardinals 42-36 win over the Vikings at the Brick House.
Several Bishop players admitted to feeling the nerves prior to tipoff, but the girls knew they had work to do.
“I felt like we had a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations to live up to,” said junior Julia De La Cruz. “If they won, we had to win. Even if they lost, we still had to win. It’s a lot of pressure, but to be honest I didn’t get nervous until like five minute before the game started. All the nerves started kicking in.”
Both teams struggled out of the gate, though Bishop (23-8) was the aggressor early on. The Cardinals attempted eight free throws in the first quarter, as Elliot Redkey and De La Cruz were able to get the ball inside and attack the Eagles’ defense. Bishop would only convert five of its attempts from the line and maintained a 9-6 lead after the first quarter.
The Cardinals kept the pedal to the metal in the second, jumping out front 15-8 with 3:14 left in the first half following consecutive baskets by Redkey. Calvary Chapel’s Zazueta scored the final two baskets of the half to cut the deficit to 15-12 at the break.
The teams went back and forth in the third, while the Eagles’ Kendall Franklin was finally able to use her size advantage down low. The senior scored all 12 of her points in the final two quarters, with her final bucket in the third cutting the Bishop lead to 26-24. The Cardinals led by three entering the fourth.
“She is really peaking at the right time,” Eagles’ coach Jayne Strand said of Franklin. “She’s been great for us and in the second half she really was shining. We needed more of that.”
Both teams struggled mightily shooting the basketball Saturday night, though Bishop was finally able to find its rhythm in the fourth. The Cardinals made the first 3-pointer of the game with 4:38 left in the fourth, when De La Cruz connected from the right wing. Redkey would add a layup a few possessions later to give the hosts a 34-26 lead with 3:25 left.
Bishop had the opportunity to seal the game at the free-throw line in the final 90 seconds, though the team missed three of its four attempts – including a pair of front end one-and-ones – to allow the Eagles to hang around. Zazueta hit her team’s first 3-pointer of the night with 58 seconds left to make it a 37-31. The Eagles had missed their first 14 shots from deep.
The Eagles were forced to foul late and sent Redkey to the line six times in the final minute. She knocked down five of her attempts to help seal the victory. As she dribbled the ball and focused on converting, Redkey told the News-Press she could actually hear Burich’s voice in her head.
“He wanted me to take my time and make sure I made those free throws,” she said. “His voice was just going through my head to make sure that I could pull it off and get the W for my team.”
The Eagles would continue to battle, with another 3-pointer by Zazueta swishing through the nets before the clock expired.
When the clock hit zero and the buzzer sounded, the Bishop bench stormed the court and students poured on to the floor to celebrate the school’s second semifinal victory in as many days.
“We knew our goal was to win CIFs, so nothing was going to come in the way of that,” Redkey said shortly after sharing an embrace with her father. “I definitely thought it was possible. I know I have a great coach and a great team behind me, so I think anything is possible with this team.”
The junior scored a game-high 18 points. De La Cruz added seven and senior Sydney Naour scored six. Franklin and Chloe Zazueta each scored 12 for the Eagles.
The Cardinals, ranked No. 2 in Div. 5A, will square off with top-ranked Ganesha next weekend, with game details set to be finalized by early next week. The Lady Giants defeated Vista del Lago 61-17 Saturday night.
Burich, who coached the Cardinals to a 2015 CIF championship, has already noticed some similarities between this year’s squad the Bishop’s last championship team. He had a 5-year-old son the first time around, who is now a 10-year-old big brother to Burich’s other son. The 2015 team suffered its final loss of the season during a Tuesday home game. This year’s team? You guessed it, suffered its last loss on a Tuesday night at the Brick House.
“I started feeding them those coincidences as soon as the playoffs started,” Burich said.
Burich began his coaching career in 1994. He took a few years off, and in his 23 year career he has now won 202 games.
“It means that I’ve been here for a while,” he said with a smile. “I have a very supportive family, a great administration and some great players in the past. It doesn’t get done without those things.”
While some coaches may avoid discussing accolades with their players, Burich said the girls were well aware all season long he was in pursuit of a milestone.
“The kids knew it and they wanted it,” he said.
Burich said he noticed several former players at Saturday’s game. He even got a pre-game text message from Hannah Rodgers from the 2015 team wishing him luck.
“It’s just awesome,” he said. “It really feels like a family.”