Sharks girls basketball season tips-off with victories

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Malibu Sharks guard Casey Ovsiowitz, shown here in a game against Nordhoff during the 2021-22 season, has helped lead the Sharks to three wins in their first four games of the 2023-24 season. Photo by McKenzie Jackson.

Team captains Kaloper and Ovsiowitz establishing themselves as sharp-shooting leaders

In the second quarter of the Malibu High Sharks girls basketball team’s home game against Pacifica Christian on Nov. 21, guard Hannah Kaloper had the ball near the top of the key when her teammate Casey Ovsiowitz darted from the paint to beyond the three-point line in the court’s left corner. 

Kaloper, a senior, passed the ball to the junior Ovsiowitz, who caught the ball, squared up, and shot it all in one motion. If you’ve seen Ovsiowitz play before you know the rest — splash. The ball hit nothing but net. 

It wasn’t the only time Ovsiowitz, a 2022-23 first-team All-Citrus Coast League member with a knack for swishing triples, scored from beyond the arc. She nailed five threes to lead Malibu to a 45-39 victory. 

Sharks head coach Justin Maidenberg said Ovsiowitz and Kaloper, the Sharks’ captains, are sharp-shooting leaders on and off the court.

“I’m looking for them to lead the team by example and vocally,” he said. “Most importantly, I want them to help put together a product on the floor that they can be proud of. They want to get better. They know it’s about team Malibu Sharks.” 

Ovsiowitz finished the contest with 21 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and four blocks. Kaloper, also an All-Citrus Coast League first-teamer last season, scored 12 points with six rebounds, four assists, and one block. 

The victory was Malibu’s second win of the 2023-24 campaign. The team defeated New Roads 48-16 on Nov. 15. Kaloper had 22 points, five rebounds, three assists, and four steals. Ovsiowitz tallied 19 points, eight rebounds, eight steals, six assists, and four blocks.

Malibu, Maidenberg said, played well in their first two contests. 

“We have a really good starting unit and bench unit of people that understand their roles,” he said. “Everybody has the ability to score the basketball. When you have five people on the floor that can dribble, pass, shoot, and defend at a high level — we are going to be a tough opponent to play because we have players that can do a little bit of everything.”

Ovsiowitz, 16, said Malibu has worked hard in practice.

“No one is giving up,” she said. “We have just been pushing and pushing each other. We have been working at game speed.” 

The Sharks defeated Golden Valley 45-28 on Nov. 28 before being defeated 57-32 by Notre Dame Academy the next day. The team beat Inglewood 54-9 on Dec. 1.

Maidenberg said every opponent Malibu played was in preparation for competition in the Citrus Coast League.

The Sharks first league game was at home on Dec. 6 against Carpinteria. They play two non-league foes — Milken on Dec. 11 at home and Bishop Diego on Dec. 13 in Santa Barbara — before hosting league rival Nordhoff on Dec. 15. 

Malibu finished last season second in the league standings. The season was one for the Sharks’ record books. They began the year with 12 consecutive wins and finished with a 17-5 record. The Sharks advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIF playoffs. 

Maidenberg said the group is excited to follow up last season’s standout play.

“We want to build on what was the most successful season in program history — last year,” he said. “They recognize now they aren’t pursuing something; they are defending something. Now, people are going to realize you are not the best-hidden secret in the city.” 

Malibu’s nine-player roster includes Leah Brasel, Lauren Lapajne, and Tara Deluca, all starters, with Kaloper and Ovsiowitz. Rounding out the team are Samantha Skuro, Elizabeth Kim, Rachel Alvarado, and Cole Ovsiowitz, Casey’s sister. 

Maidenberg was hired in August to replace longtime coach Andy Meyer, who retired. Maidenberg has coached middle and high school boys and girls basketball in the past and was an assistant coach for the Santa Monica College men’s basketball team from 2017-21. He has worked with West Coast Elite Basketball, in the University of San Diego men’s basketball program, and most recently in the Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball program. 

Maidenberg aims to put his players in positions to succeed on the court and have fun. 

“I want to build relationships and get to know them as their true and authentic selves,” he said. “I allow them to get to know me as well. At the beginning of each practice, I ask them how their days were. The best teams are the most connected teams. When you build true, authentic relationships that leads to having a great ability to connect on the floor.” 

Kaloper described Malibu as a confident and competitive bunch and said their new coach matches their energy. 

“He is so locked in on our goal,” she said. “He is trying to make us the best players and team we can be.” 

The Malibu High School gymnasium’s walls are adorned with league championship banners won by a variety of the school’s sports teams. There isn’t one recognition of title won by a girls hoops team. Ovsiowitz and her teammates want to change that.

“We want to get a banner on the wall,” she said. “We have to motivate each other. We have to work together and play aggressive and hard.”