An unusual thing happened to the Arroyo Grande High girls basketball team.
In the first half of their game against Torrance in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AAA playoffs Wednesday, two of the Eagles’ best shooters — senior forward Lindsey Wolf and senior guard Brianna Flood — just went cold.
So during the halftime break, their coach, Dwight MacDonald, made one simple suggestion.
“Shoot the ball,” he said. “You’ll do fine.”
Flood, who was scoreless in the first half, made the most out of that advice. She came out in the third quarter on fire, exploding for 12 straight points — including two 3-pointers and a shorter jumper — to lead the Eagles to their first double-digit lead, turning a close game into a 60-44 victory in front of a nearly packed home gym.
Flood scored 12 of her 14 points in the third quarter, Heather Madrigal had a game-high 22 points after going 12 for 13 at the foul line to go along with eight rebounds, and Wolf finished with 10 points and nine rebounds. North Dakota-bound forward Emma Weinreich, who sat out the second quarter because of foul trouble, had eight rebounds and six points.
The win sends Arroyo Grande to its first division semifinal appearance since 1988, when MacDonald was in his second year of his first stint as the head coach. That year, his Eagles suffered a five-point to Chino.
This year’s Eagles (23-5), which are seeded third, will play at No. 2 Bonita (27-3) in La Verne in Saturday’s semifinal game at 7 p.m.“This team is basically reaping all the hard work from last year and the year before,” said MacDonald, whose two previous teams made it no further than the quarterfinals.
So he knew what his team was capable of. It didn’t matter that the Eagles held only a 26-25 halftime lead. They tightened up their defense, especially on Torrance’s Faith Matsuda, who opened the game with back-to-back 3s — nailing a 28-footer and banking in another. Matsuda finished with 12 points, with her third and final 3-pointer coming late in the game.
There was also an encouraging speech.
“I told the girls at halftime that we were playing a good game,” MacDonald said, “but we were missing shots. We had Lindsey missing shots, we had Bri missing shots. Never in these 28 games that we’ve played that they’ve been cold at the same time. So I told them, ‘Bri, you’re a great shooter. Lindsey, you’re a great shooter.’ ”
And Flood believed it, as she had her 12 third-quarter points in a span of less than two minutes. Besides her jump shots, she also made four free throws to give the Eagles a 37-27 lead with 3:27 left in the period.
“Her 3s really helped us,” Weinreich said of Flood. “She put us on a roll.”
Arroyo Grande held Torrance to seven points in the third, all coming from power forward Ihana Aiono (a team-high 16 points). The Tartars forced the Eagles to five trips to the foul line to end the game, in which Madrigal and Maurisa Dominguez responded by making 9 of 10.
“We worked hard in the summer time and it’s all falling into place,” Flood said. “We’re peaking at the right time and we’re coming together as a team perfectly.”