Malibu Sharks girls basketball player Catherine McDonough stepped in front of the Nordhoff Rangers player inbounding the ball with 0.8 seconds left on the game clock on Jan. 7 in the Malibu High gym.
McDonough, a 6-foot-2 center, jumped. She waved her arms around. She hollered. And when the basketball left the Nordhoff player’s hands in a passing attempt, McDonough deflected the ball from the intended path.
The game’s final buzzer blared during the ensuing scramble for the loose ball. At the sound of the horn, the Sharks jumped, cheered, and hugged, celebrating their 41-39 win over their Citrus Coast League foe.
McDonough felt some pressure in the game’s final moments.
“I just thought, ‘What can I do?’” she said. “I just started jumping up and down and trying to block the ball. When I did, it felt so great.”
The sophomore’s deflection cemented the win for the undefeated Sharks — a victory in which they battled back from a eight-point deficit.
Many of their wins have been by double digits, so Sharks head coach Andy Meyer had no idea how the girls would react to playing in a tough contest.
“We hadn’t been challenged like that,” he said. “I am really proud of them. We fought through. We were behind for a while. It was close. It was pressure, but they responded.”
The coach noted how Nordhoff was the first team this season to apply a full-court press and use a triangle-and-two defense against Malibu.
“It was great to see how the girls responded,” Meyer said. “It is nice to see they can adjust when we have to.”
Sharks guard Hannah Kaloper, one of the two players Nordhoff’s defense was keyed on, said the opposition was tough.
“It is about battling through it though and staying composed until the end,” she said. “Just being relentless.”
Malibu went 3-0 last week. They downed Fillmore 40-30 on Jan. 3 and beat Channel Islands 30-18 two days before facing the Rangers.
The Sharks had an 11-0 record heading into their contest against Carpinteria on Tuesday. Malibu plays at Hueneme on Thursday and at Santa Paula on Friday. The squad will face Nordhoff in the Rangers’ gym on Jan. 19.
The Sharks led the Rangers 11-7 in the second quarter, but Nordhoff, fueled by three-point makes and its defense, mounted a comeback.
A Ranger banked in a three to give them an 13-11 lead. A few plays later, another made triple gave the visiting bunch a 17-11 lead.
Guard Casey Ovsiowitz nailed a three with 3:30 left in the second quarter to end a scoring drought for Malibu.
After Nordhoff answered with a three, Kaloper scoop-passed the ball to Ovsiowitz, who swished another triple.
Nordoff scored to hold a 22-17 lead at halftime and started their scoring in the third quarter with a three-point splash.
Forward Whitney Shanahan corralled a rebound and scored a layup for Malibu’s first points of the third quarter. Ovsiowitz then drove in the lane and hit a left-handed floater, while being fouled. She missed the foul shot, but her score narrowed the Rangers’ lead to five points.
Ovsiowitz hit a three a few minutes later and McDonough followed that up with a turnaround jump shot in the lane. Kaloper hit a long two-pointer to give Malibu a 30-29 at the end of the third quarter.
Nordhoff briefly took the lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter before Malibu’s Lauren Lapajne hit two foul shots to tie the game. Kaloper hit another jumper to put Malibu up 34-32.
Kaloper swished two free throws before Nordhoff tied the score at 36 with under two minutes left in the match. After a Nordhoff three, McDonough hit one of two foul shots and Kaloper swished two foul shots to tie the game.
Ovsiowitz made a foul shot to give Malibu a 40-39 lead. Lapajne made one to increase the lead by another point with 7.5 seconds to play.
Then, came McDonough’s defensive play. The Rangers were inbounding the ball on the sideline on their end of the court in an attempt to tie or win the contest, but never got the chance due to McDonough’s deflection.
Malibu, McDonough said, played great.
“It was a close game but we were able to stick through it together,” she said. “Winning this game makes us feel like we can do anything.”
Meyer said Malibu can compete in any type of contest.
“Now they realize the score doesn’t matter,” he said. “No matter what we come up against, just play like we know we can play and things will take care of themselves. They were nervous today, but hopefully they have learned something about themselves.”