Sharks girls basketball advances to CIF quarterfinals

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The Malibu High girls basketball team after their win over Orange. Photo from Doug and Alejandra DeLuca.

The Malibu High Sharks girls basketball team battled back from a 15-point halftime deficit on Feb. 11 to advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time in school history. 

The Sharks defeated the Orange Panthers 43-42 in the in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Girls Basketball Championships in Division 5A. The road victory advanced Malibu to a matchup in the tournament’s quarterfinals against St. Monica on Wednesday. 

Sharks head coach Andy Meyer said Malibu deserved the win. 

“They have worked hard all year,” he explained. “This is validation for all the hard work they have put in.”

Malibu center Catherine McDonough said teamwork was the key to the comeback triumph. 

“Slowly, we worked together to score and played really good defense,” she stated. “We communicated a lot on defense and offense.” 

The Sharks’ second-half charge was spearheaded by guard Hannah Kaloper, who led Malibu with 17 points. The junior nailed two threes early in the third quarter to get momentum dribbling the Sharks’ way. It was an energy boost, Kaloper noted. 

Hannah Kaloper led Malibu in scoring against Orange. Photo from Doug and Alejandra DeLuca
Hannah Kaloper led Malibu High with 17 points as the Sharks beat Orange 43-42 in the second round of the CIF Division 5A playoffs. Photo by Doug and Alejandra DeLuca.

“We’ve experienced that kind of energy before in other close games, but the maturity we showed by being so calm and focused was next level,” she said. “Everyone did their part and executed.” 

Malibu’s run to get back in the contest included key shots by Kaloper, Whitney Shanahan, and Casey Ovsiowitz and tough defense. The Sharks and Panthers exchanged two-point leads for a time before Malibu went up a few buckets. The Sharks were up by three with nine seconds left. Orange scored a two-pointer as time on the game clock expired. 

“Our team did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Meyer noted. 

Ovsiowitz scored 9 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Lauren Lapajne tallied 6 points and 7 rebounds. McDonough had 5 points and 8 rebounds. Shanahan recorded 6 points and hauled in 4 rebounds. 

The win pushed Malibu to a 17-4 record. The Sharks won three of their last four regular season games and finished in second place in the Citrus Coast League. 

The squad began the postseason with a 51-38 home triumph over Western. Malibu grabbed an early 9-0 lead and never trailed in the match. Kaloper led the way with 19 points. Lapajne, Meyer stated, played her best game of the season. 

“She hit some nice 3-pointers and had some good rebounds,” he said. 

Meyer said the Sharks were a bit nervous before tipoff, but they played the way they have played all season.

“As long as we do what we have been doing, things should work out,” Meyer said. 

The winner of the Malibu/St. Monica matchup advanced to a semifinal game against the winner of San Gorgonio/Riverside Prep on Saturday. The championship is on Feb. 25.

The Sharks girls basketball team had qualified for the playoffs four times previously. The last time was in 2017. Malibu had only one postseason win before this year’s team downed Western and Orange.

Meyer said Kaloper’s and Ovsiowitz’s scoring have led the Sharks and that McDonough’s defense in the paint has been key. McDonough suffered a knee injury before the playoffs but has decided to keep playing.

“She is great at changing people’s shots,” Meyer explained. “Just to see her do that on a bad knee is motivational for the whole team. Catherine has been super aggressive against the post players.” 

McDonough wants to push through for her team.

“I want to go out there and have fun,” she said. “I can rest afterwards.” 

Kaloper said Malibu must keep playing its way of basketball to be successful.

“We need to feed off the energy and support of our crowd and keep playing with the determined and confident mindset we had in the second half of our last game,” she noted.