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MHS girls basketball is playoff bound

The Malibu High School girls varsity basketball team has done 12 things this season that it was unable to do last season: it won 12 games.

After going 0-22 last season (1-22 if one counts a forfeit), the Sharks have accomplished more this season than just about anyone expected, including the team members. They finished the regular season, 12-9. That is the highest win total for a Malibu High girls basketball team, with the previous high mark being 10 wins.

This season, the Sharks returned four starters and a few other role players. Two freshmen and a player who is new to California schools round out the roster.

The team’s leading scorer is freshman point guard Cheyenne Weekley, who averages just under 18 points per game. Emani Truluck, a sophomore guard, and Dominique Magee, a freshman forward, are the second and third leading scorers respectively. Magee and Truluck lead the team in rebounding. Weekley has broken school records for steals, and Magee holds a record for rebounds, grabbing 23 in one game. Weekley has scored 28 points twice this season, while Truluck recently led the Sharks to a league victory with 26 points.

Senior Caitlin Gerard takes the toughest defensive assignment each game. Junior captains Emilie Haft and Allie Sarmiento add points, rebounds, and defense where necessary. Haft plays several instruments and Sarmiento also plays varsity tennis. Post player Zoe Denean and Maddie Fuchs, the tallest girls on the team at 5 feet 11 inches and 5 feet 10 inches respectively, add a defensive force in the middle, and have rebounded well for the Sharks. Nina Farag, Taylor Ballantyne, Gonessa Naecher, and Katrina Morelock add whatever the team needs on any given night.

Ballantyne swam last year, but joined the Sharks on land for a senior basketball season. Morelock, a senior softball player, adds toughness, rebounding, and team leadership for the Sharks. Freshman India Oxenberg and Thea Stutsman have gone between junior varsity and varsity and contributed at both levels. The Sharks have been without Jessica Ysordi

The team is close. The members have attended USC Women’s Basketball games and a practice. They spend time on weekends together. It often shows in the chemistry on the court.

As is typical for Malibu High students, the girls are all multi-talented, and juggle AP classes, music, acting, and choir with their club volleyball, tennis, softball and other activities.

“Before the season began, my goal for our team was to win eight games,” head coach Laura Mitchell said. “Then in late December we’d won a couple we weren’t supposed to, I upped it to 10 wins. Then I lost my goal card for about 10 days. We were stalled at nine wins when I found my goal card again. I cut it into a hundred pieces. I made a new goal card with the goal of 12-plus wins and playoffs. It paid off!”

On Sunday at 1 p.m., the goal that started as a dream became reality. Malibu snuck into playoffs with an at-large bid to the Division IVAA Tournament

Before each game the Shark players record their own personal and team goals in a small notebook that Mitchell got for each player.

“Focusing on what we do well is how we put it all together for a win,” Mitchell said. “Each player has to do her part. All of those small things add up for the win. We focus on playing well, intensity, and things like getting a shot clock violation each half and driving to the lane for good shots. Then the girls on the bench go crazy when we accomplish those small goals. The win is just the icing on the cake.

“People said it was crazy to take over a team that didn’t win a game last year. I think it was smart. After we won our season opener people were a bit satisfied. At five wins, we might have had a parade. With a playoff bid this year, the hope for a strong Malibu girls basketball team is shared by many in the MHS community. The team is young.”

Mitchell and crew hope to find their way into the polls next year and the ultimate dream is to contend for a CIF title before the talented group graduates. Mitchell is a former NCAA player, college coach and NCAA Championships committee member. She was a head coach at UC Santa Cruz before this season and volunteered as part of Pepperdine’s staff while attending law school there.

This year has been a year of firsts for the team. No Malibu girls basketball team has ever earned a playoff bid before. In early January, the Sharks won their first league game in team history. They beat Santa Paula, a team who only fours years ago smacked the Sharks with a 66-0 defeat.

Last week, by beating Santa Clara at home, the team forced a playoff to determine the third spot and automatic bid from the Frontier League. Malibu lost that game by seven points, but 12 wins was enough to petition for an at-large bid. The committee responded to the Malibu Sharks’ story and record and granted the petition. The Sharks match up against St. Bonaventure-a ninth ranked Division IV opponent in Ventura. The Sharks will travel to St. Bonaventure on Thursday night for the game.

Pepperdine women’s tennis upsets UCLA

The No. 25 Pepperdine University women’s tennis team upset No. 15 UCLA, 4-3, on Saturday at the Ralphs-Strauss Tennis Center and remain undefeated at 6-0. The loss was the first of the season for the Bruins.

The Waves secured wins in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions and won the doubles point. Pepperdine’s Bianca Dulgheru and Eva Dickes defeated Anna-Viktoria Lind and Alex McGoodwin, 8-6, at court two. And the Waves’ Natalie Braverman and junior Caroline Raba beat Tracy Lin and Ashley Joelson, 9-8.

Dulgheru quickly beat Riza Zalameda (6-0, 6-2) while Dickes defeated Alex McGoodwin (6-4, 3-6, 6-3) to tie the match at three points each. Senior Merve Asimgil defeated Lind 6-2 in the third set to clench the team victory.

Pepperdine has not defeated UCLA since 2001, when it went 2-0 against the Bruins that season.

The Waves are back in action Saturday at 11 a.m. against Sacramento State as they continue their four-match home stand.

Pepperdine men’s tennis remains undefeated

The Pepperdine University men’s tennis team, ranked fourth in the nation, defeated No. 8 UCLA, 4-3, Friday as hundreds of fans watched at the Los Angeles Tennis Center in Los Angeles. The Waves remain unbeaten as they snapped UCLA’s 28-match home winning streak, which dated back to March 10, 2004.

Pepperdine captured the doubles point after winning in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions. Junior Richard Johnson and freshman Omar Altmann beat Mathieu Dehaine and Aaron Yovan, 8-2, in the third position, while senior Scott Doerner and sophomore Andre Begemann suffered their first doubles loss of the season. Seniors Pedro Rico and Ivor Lovrak, the No. 31 double team, defeated Haythem Abid and Christ Surapol, 8-6.

In singles play, Pepperdine won in positions two and five. Rico defeated Abid (6-2, 6-2) followed by Johnson defeating Jeremy Drean (6-3, 7-5).

With two matches still in play in the third set, the Waves needed one win to clinch the victory. The pressure laid on Lovrak after Begemann was defeated by Surapol (6-4, 6-7, 6-3). In a third-set tiebreaker, Lovrak captured the match (4-6, 7-5, 7-6).

The Waves compete this weekend at the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Pepperdine baseball suffers first series loss

The Pepperdine University baseball team dropped two of three games in a weekend series against Fresno State. The Waves are 3-3 on the season.

The Waves began the road series on Friday with a 7-2 victory. Pepperdine then lost a close battle with Fresno State on Saturday, losing 9-8. But the Bulldogs crushed the Waves on Sunday, 8-3.

Pepperdine sophomore center fielder Adrian Ortiz went 7 for 13 in the series. He has had at least one hit in every game this season.

The Waves played at home against Long Beach State on Tuesday in a game that took place after The Malibu Times went to print. The team plays again this weekend in a three-game home series against Oregon State.

Pepperdine women’s basketball defeats LMU

The Pepperdine women’s basketball team defeated Loyola Marymount, 53-47, Saturday night at Gersten Pavilion.

Pepperdine freshman Jessica Ross scored her first three points of the night with 1:30 left in the game. She then connected on a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left and defeated a Rachael Ziemann attempt with 23 seconds left on the clock.

Pepperdine junior Jasmane Clarendon, who was named WCC Player of the Week, led the Waves with 15 points and nine rebounds. while sophomore Daphanie Kennedy scored seven points.

The Waves will conclude their final regular-season road trip this weekend when they travel to Portland and Gonzaga. The Waves will close out the season at home against Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara on Feb. 23 and 25, respectively.

-Compiled by Carley Dryden