May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

After Tesoro reaches finals, Northwood Coach Tim O’Brien inspires coach and players

Tesoro Coach Steve Garrett with his son Kaden (middle) and Matt DeAngelo after Friday’s victory and a meeting with Northwood Coach Tim O’Brien. (Photo Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone)

Tesoro’s ‘post-game talk was emotional following the Titans 62-47 victory over Yorba Linda in the semifinals of the So Cal Eite Gary Raya Classic at Northwood Friday night.

Northwood Coach Tim O’Brien, who continues to recover from cancer, talked with the Titans after they had overcome a 6-point first quarter deficit to advance into Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. championship game against Colony at Portola. Tesoro is the defending tournament champion.

O’Brien was about to coach his team against San Clemente. But he said he wanted to talk to the Tritons and long-time friend Steve Garrett, Tesoro’s boys basketball coach. O’Brien said he wanted to see Garrett’s son, Kaden, a senior, play for the first time. O’Brien watched the entire Tesoro-Yorba Linda game.

A teary-eyed Garrett came out of the post-game session in the Northwood locker-room thankful, pointing out how much O’Brien helped him in the early stages of his career.

“He was always willing to let me pick his brain even though he knew we would be competing for league titles for the next five or six years,” Garrett said. “We had no gym and we had to go practice at the Morman Church, 24 Hour Fitness and the YMCA. I would load up the kids kids into my car and Tim was the one who extended his hand and said, ‘come on over, you can use it (the gym) any time you want. I’ll open it up for you.’

“It’s good to be able to express to him how much he means to me. It’s great to see him around these kids. It’s great to introducing him to my team. He’s done a lot for kids and I just really look up to him. I’m glad my team got to meet him. I really love Tim O’Brien.”

Garrett and O’Brien, besides their love of basketball, have also coached their sons. O’Brien coached his son Chris and Garrett is coaching his son, Kaden, who had 22 points, eight rebounds and four steals Friday night.

“He gave me a lot of advice too,” Coach Garrett said. “It’s tough coaching your son and he was always the one. I would call and got advice and picked his brain and asked how is it coaching your son. He said, ‘ go coach him like you coach everyone else and you will love it. It will be time of your life and it will go by fast.’ He’s been a mentor on and off the court and somebody I can really count on and someone I can really respect.”

O’Brien’s meeting involved just the Tesoro players and coaches, but there were several rounds of applause, presumably after O’Brien made some points with the Titans. O’Brien took a year off from coaching last year, but has returned this year, although he’s had to take some time off from games and practices to continue treatments.

“He was encouraging them and he said he liked the way they played and how they are just a really team oriented-team and they all celebrate everything each other do,” Coach Garrett said.

Talking with O’Brien before the game and the post-game meeting was special, the Tesoro coach said.

“This was so far, the best moment of my season to see him,” Garrett said.

The players were also impressed with O’Brien’s message.

“It was really emotional for coach, my dad,” said Kaden Garrett. “That coach means a lot to him. It was cool to have him talk to the guys and talk to us after a good win.

“His message was about perseverance. He talked about in the Bible about David overcoming Goliath and that’s how he described his battle with cancer. Perseverance.”

Tesoro guard Matt DeAngelo, who was coming off a big game (24 points, seven rebounds and five steals) said the players were impressed by what O’Brien said.

“I thought it was really powerful because when you overcome cancer, obviously that’s huge thing in someone’s life and for him to be able to share that with us was an amazing experience. We’re grateful to have him here still.”

In the game, Yorba Linda jumped out to a 17-11 lead after one quarter but Tesoro stepped up the defensive intensity in the second quarter outscoring the Mustangs 17-8 to take a 28-25 lead at halftime. Tesoro outscored Yorba Linda 16-6 in the third quarter to take control of the game.

“Our defense picked up and our commitment to our defensive principles,” Coach Garrett said. “The guys were boxing out better in the second half and rebounding helped us a lot and our two big leaders, our captains, really carried us. I thought Kaden carried us tremendously in the first half keeping us in the game with his buckets and Matt making plays in the second half drawing fouls and both of them, their consistency on defense.”

Omair Memon had 14 points and Connor Platt 10 points to lead Yorba Linda (8-3).

But Tesoro, which also received a strong effort from Kyle Ritscher (9 points), had too many offensive weapons. Starting guard Mike Mahlen was out sick.

“It was a great game; we really stepped up in the second half and we picked up our offense and our pressure defense,” DeAngelo said,

“I’m excited to be back in the finals,” Kaden Garrett said. “We won this tournament last year and we’re excited for the opportunity to win it again.”

RELATED: Full schedule for Saturday’s Gary Raya Classic

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com