The Malibu High Sharks boys’ basketball team will end its regular season on Thursday with a winning record in the Citrus Coast League and possibly a league title in hand.
The Sharks will host the Hueneme Vikings, a league foe, at 7 p.m. At press time, Malibu was undefeated in the league and was also scheduled to face Fillmore, another league opponent, two days before their season finale against the Vikings.
Sharks head coach Richard Harris said if Malibu wins both matches they will be Citrus Coast League champions.
“We will celebrate if we win,” he said. “Winning league is one of our main goals. Its hard to do, so it is something to celebrate.”
Malibu’s 3-0 league record made it the only lossless team in the six-team Citrus Coast League entering the week and had them sitting atop the standings. Nordhoff was second with a 6-1 record, while Hueneme was positioned third with a 5-3 record. Fillmore, 4-3, was fourth.
Harris said all the league’s teams are talented. “If we are able to come out on top, it is a good sign for us,” he said.
The Sharks will participate in the CIF postseason for the first time in three years. Their first playoff game will be on May 19.
Malibu’s season is normally in the winter but, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the boys’ season didn’t tipoff until mid-April. The group couldn’t officially practice together in the Malibu gym until April 16, a day before the season opener.
Harris is glad the ball was able to bounce this season because the Sharks’ seven-man roster is filled with talent.
“This team has a real good chance to do something in the playoffs,” he said. “They play really well.”
Malibu, also ranked second in Division 5A, had a 3-3 record overall earlier this week. Two of those losses—to Viewpoint in the season’s first game and St. Bonaventure—were to squads in higher divisions, said Harris. Nevertheless, his team played tough.
“We competed with those teams,” Harris said. “The Viewpoint game was a three-point game at the half. We were able to stay on the court with them, and we were competing. They beat us [by] a good amount, but it was a competitive game all the way through.”
Harris credited the players’ improved skill level as the reason for Malibu’s success. Senior forward Hunter Bercu has maximized his talent and is the quintessential team player, while junior wing player Dean Furlong, armed with a gnarly shooting touch, sprouted to 6-foot-6 in height.
“He went from being a role player who shot threes, to our starting point guard and playmaker who controls the game,” said Harris of Furlong.
Senior guard Arman Santizo plays with an energy that can’t be matched. That leads to him drawing charges, diving on the hardwood for loose balls and accumulating a variety of stats. Senior frontcourt player Jordan Wilson swishes open shots and plays a well-rounded game. Senior perimeter player Noah Weaver rebounds, dribbles and scores all over the hardwood.
Weaver, Furlong and Bercu are Malibu’s top scorers. Wilson, Weaver and Furlong are the team’s leading rebounders.
Malibu’s first victory of the season was a 52-41 triumph over Nordhoff. They beat Hueneme, 51-46, next. Harris said the squad’s best victory was a 60-39 thrashing of Santa Paula at home on May 14. Furlong and Weaver each scored 18 points, while Santizo came close to having a triple double thanks to his scoring, rebounding and steals. Furlong also snagged 10 rebounds.
Harris coached the Sharks for just over four years before he stepped away from the post before the 2018-19 campaign. That season and last year were losing ones for Malibu, but change is in the air.
“They are a great team,” Harris said of his squad. “I think this is the best team I have ever coached because of the camaraderie, team work and mentalities. All the guys have good personalities and mesh well together.”