Malibu High boys’ basketball heads to Florida

Malibu’s Harrison Kaplan scores on a layup in a non-league game vs. Rio Mesa. Photo by Dick Dornan / TMT

The Malibu boys’ basketball team is off to a good start this season despite a 58-39 loss to Rio Mesa High School last week. The previous week the Sharks took third place at the Pacifica Tournament after decisively beating Pacifica 55-47. Malibu will now head east to Orlando, Fla. to participate in the “KSA Holiday Tournament” after Christmas.

“I’m very excited. This will be a good test for us,” coach Bobby Tenorio said. “It will also be a good bonding experience for the guys. It will be pretty awesome.”

Malibu (7-5) is at the back end of the non-league portion of its regular season schedule. Frontier League play begins at Santa Paula High School on Jan. 6.

After going 2-2 at the Viewpoint Tournament, the Sharks were very impressive with a 3-1 record at Pacifica.

“We played great team basketball,” Tenorio stated. “Our guards had a good tournament. When all the players play together as a team, we play well. It was a great effort by everyone.”

Tenorio credited the steady and consistent play of center Justin Holmes and the sturdy guard play of Kyle Sandler, Jack Platner and Anthony Kodomichalos for the success in the tournament. When the Sharks receive contributions from each of its players, they will prove to be a formidable team in the Frontier League and a tough one to beat.

However, when they rely solely on the 6’6” 250 pound Holmes, Malibu struggles-as was the case versus Oak Park in the first game of the season and recently on the road against the Rio Mesa Spartans.

Leading 12-10 at the end of the first quarter, the Spartans jumped out quickly to begin the second period on a 13-2 run to take a 25-12 advantage against the Sharks. Malibu went cold from the floor connecting on only one of ten shots.

Holmes scored on a nifty drop step to the basket that stopped a five-minute scoreless drought for Malibu. He followed that with a 10-foot bank shot that brought the Sharks to within eight at 29-21.

Rio Mesa closed out the first half when guard Reggie Dixon hit a shot from the top of the key at the buzzer to give the Spartans a 31-21 lead at halftime.

Holmes had 12 points at the break for the Sharks.

The teams battled back and forth in the third quarter with Malibu forward Harrison Kaplan scoring four of his eight points to bring the Sharks to within eight points, 41-33, at the end of the quarter. That was as close as MHS would come to leading the Spartans the rest of the game.

Rio Mesa’s full court press forced multiple Malibu turnovers that ignited a 12-2 run to give the Spartans a commanding 53-35 lead with 3:32 left in the game.

Holmes scored his first basket of the second half on a layup with only 1:27 remaining. To make matters worse, the Sharks only made three of 10 free throws in the second half.

“We played a good three quarters of basketball but just didn’t execute in the fourth quarter,” Kaplan said. “We turned the ball over and didn’t step up when we needed to.”

Tenorio was frustrated with the team’s lack of execution after playing so well the previous week at Pacifica.

“We were too one-dimensional tonight,” Tenorio said. “When we focus too much on Justin [Holmes], we have a tendency to stand and ball watch. Everybody needs to be involved.

“We are not going to see any of these types of teams in our league. This competition is good for us. It will only make us stronger.”

Kaplan, a 6’4” senior who received second-team All-Frontier League recognition last season, realizes the significance of the tournament in Florida.

“It’s going to show what we are made of,” Kaplan said. “We are playing tough teams.”

Malibu plays Norton High School of Ohio in the first round of the Christmas tournament.

“Hopefully this helps us out in the long run,” Tenorio said. “I know we are pretty strong and a favorite to win the Frontier League. We are confident and we just need to keep playing together as a team.”