Sharks basketball teams shooting for victories

Both squads hit the hardwood against Citrus Coast League opponents this week after nearly a month off 

The Malibu High Sharks basketball teams are shooting to continue their winning ways after winter break. 

The girls squad entered 2023 with a 8-0 record, and the boys team dribbled to four straight wins last month after starting the season with four losses. Both bunches hit the hardwood against Citrus Coast League opponents this week after nearly a month off. 

The Sharks boys’ 2022-2023 campaign got off to a shaky start, said first-year head coach Mike Sutton, because he and the players had to get acclimated to each other. 

“We are improving,” said Sutton, who had stints as an assistant coach at Palisades Charter High and Santa Monica High. “Our expectations are to keep improving individually and as a team. After that, everything will take care of itself and come together like Voltron.”  

Malibu girls basketball coach Andy Meyer said his undefeated group has played well. The Sharks coach of 13 years said last season’s team, with only one senior, had growing pains.

“We made a lot of mistakes last year being a young team,” Meyer said. “We are pretty much have the same team with the addition of one important player, so it’s been going great. These girls play well together.” 

Junior point guard Hannah Kaloper, whose 25 points a game leads the girls team, expected the Sharks to start the season hot. 

“It’s a reflection of the talent and the progress we have made as individuals and as a team,” she said. “We made a commitment to basketball and the team and have been putting our best foot forward and playing our hardest.” 

Kaloper and forward Casey Ovsiowitz are playing great this season, said Meyer. Kaloper is playing with confidence and Ovsiowitz has improved her passing and rebounding. 

“Hannah is playing point guard and hadn’t before,” Meyer said. “She is growing into it quite well. Casey has always been a great shooter, but now you add the assists. She is becoming a complete player.” 

Ovsiowitz and Kaloper are joined in Malibu’s starting lineup by Lauren Lapajne and Whitney Shanahan, the team’s only senior, who played organized basketball for the first time last year. The fifth starter is sophomore center Catherine McDonough, who transferred to Malibu before the school year.

McDonough, who is 6-foot-2 and a standout volleyball player, has made a big impact on the court with her impressive defense and rebounding and improving offense. Kaloper said her new teammate’s presence helps the rest of the Sharks. 

“She has been a great addition because she has opened things up for us on the wing,” Kaloper said of McDonough. “She has made Casey and I the best versions of ourselves. She rebounds and defends well individually and makes the rest of us better players by the way she can draw attention.” 

McDonough said her teammates welcomed her with open arms. She expects the Sharks to improve throughout the season. 

“We are a strong team,” McDonough said. “Some girls are still new to basketball and haven’t played for a long time, so as the season goes on, they will get better and help the team.”

Malibu started the season with a 46-12 win over Hawthorne Math & Science Academy and continued racking up double-digit triumphs. 

The girls beat Santa Clarita Christian 64-20, Environmental Charter 62-11, La Reina 54-8, Midland 69-22, Dunn 44-10, and Citrus Coast League foe Hueneme 62-20. Their last game before the winter break was a 38-17 win over Triumph Charter. 

Meyer said the Triumph Charter victory was impressive because Malibu didn’t play great in the first half but upped their play after halftime. 

“The second half was one of our best halves of the season,” he said. “We were pushed into a corner and came out fighting.” 

The girls played at Fillmore on Tuesday and host Channel Islands on Thursday. The Sharks host Nordhoff on Saturday. 

Last season’s Malibu boys team had deep runs in two CIF postseason tournaments. However, the top two players from that squad graduated in the spring. Additionally, the team’s head coach stepped down. 

This season’s squad began its campaign as an inexperienced bunch. Only one player — senior guard Will Caceres — played big minutes last season and six players are new, so Sutton, who won a CIF title with Santa Monica in 2016, didn’t set expectations for the group. The coach, who has run a youth hoops training program called Certified Shooter, has focused on skill development and conditioning. 

Sutton said the boys are improving.

“At first we weren’t in the greatest of game shape,” he said. “Our conditioning has gotten better and it is showing in the fourth quarters of games.”

Malibu lost to St. Genevieve 61-39 in a season-opening tournament and also dropped games to Milken (64-17), de Toledo (68-58), and Viewpoint (64-36) in the same event. 

The Sharks’ first win was a 70-33 victory over league opponent Hueneme. Then, Malibu played their best basketball in the Ojai Valley Classic. The Sharks opened the tournament with a win over Laguna Blanca and then downed Hillcrest Christian. Malibu beat the host team Thacher in the championship. 

Caceres was the Classic’s MVP and nailed 11 three-pointers in the opening game and senior forward Asher Katz recorded a few double-doubles. Junior guard Henley Baldwin and senior wing player Lloyd Bema played well. 

Sutton said Malibu made winning plays. 

“They sacrificed their bodies for the team,” he said. “They were diving on the floor and helping each other up. They were locked in.”

There was a key block by Katz in the championship contest, and Caceres made a big 3-pointer after a timeout. Grant Folkerts and Harold Bema locked down Thacher’s top scorer in the second half. 

The team went to Chick-fil-A to celebrate the title. 

“They were pumped,” said Sutton. “It was good to see them have joy and success.” 

Malibu played at Fillmore on Wednesday and will host Channel Islands on Friday. The Sharks play at Nordhoff on Monday. 

Malibu wants to play up-tempo basketball and be aggressive on offense and defense. 

“Our goal is to win the league,” Sutton said. “We are going to try and stay at the top.”

The girls team has a similar goal, Meyer said. 

“I’m curious to see how it goes in the heart of league,” he said. “Our goal it to make the playoffs.” 

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