Malibu Sharks boys basketball player Dean Furlong wasn’t having the swishiest of shooting nights when his dad, Malibu coach Larry Furlong, addressed him during a timeout in the final quarter in the Sharks’ Jan. 9 home contest against Santa Paula. 

The younger Furlong, a sophomore, had bricked all his shooting attempts on the evening and the Sharks were falling further and further behind Santa Paula, but his father told him to keep shooting.

“We aren’t going to erase this 10-point lead if you don’t hit a couple of big shots,’” the coach recalled telling his son. 

The result? 

The 10th-grade Furlong splashed two three-point shots amidst the Sharks’ late comeback attempt. Malibu scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, but still fell to Santa Paula, a Citrus Coast League rival, 43-39.

Malibu’s coach said the bunch could have won the contest.

“This is not going to be a moral victory, ‘We kept it close, you guys came back,’” the elder Furlong said. “I will say those things, but that is not the important message. The important message is we let an opportunity get away, to beat a team we could have beat. We can’t do that.”

Malibu trailed by one point at halftime but in the third quarter and initial minutes of the fourth quarter, while Santa Paula knocked down shots, the rim seemed to have a lid on it for Sharks shooters. There were clanked threes, missed twos and even consecutive bricks on fast-break layups. 

The home team was down by as many as 11 points, but after Malibu junior Hunter Bercu swatted away a Santa Paula shot, his teammate, senior Elijah Shayne, nailed a triple to make the score 36-29 with under five minutes left in the contest. 

Then, after a Santa Paula turnover, Malibu sophomore Cameron Nwede hit a foul shot to cut the visiting team’s lead to seven points. 

A few plays later, Armen Santizo, a Sharks’ junior, stole the ball from Santa Paula and passed it to Shayne, who scored a layup while being fouled. Shayne made the accompanying free throw which made the score 39-33. 

Furlong drained his first three of the game with 40 seconds left on the game clock to put his team within three points after two Sharks missed shots. But then, a questionable foul was called on Nwede while defending a Santa Paula player. The player hit two foul shots to push Santa Paula’s lead to five points with 21 seconds left. 

Furlong splashed another three with seven seconds left; however, Santa Paula scored another layup and Malibu didn’t get the ball back before time on the clock expired. 

Malibu led early in the contest and the game was tied at 16 in the second quarter before Santa Paula gained a 23-16 lead. Santa Paula was up, 24-23, at halftime. 

Malibu, a squad composed of mostly inexperienced hoopers, is growing, said coach Furlong, and losing like they did to Santa Paula is part of the maturation process. 

“They just got to learn they can’t give away opportunities like this,” he said. “You could see it in their faces when they were playing. It dawned on them with [five] or six minutes left, that they were going to lose, but we can’t sleepwalk through three quarters of a game and decide to turn it on.” 

The coach said the Sharks can only learn by playing more games. 

“Some of these teams and kids we have played against have played 500 games in their life, and some of our kids have played 30 games in their life,” Furlong said. 

The Sharks have four wins this season, including one over Nordoff, another Citrus Coast League opponent, at a tournament last month. 

Two days before losing to Santa Paula, the Sharks were downed by Nordoff in a league game. 

Malibu will face league opposition for the rest of the season, aside from one matchup. The team hosted Fillmore on Tuesday and will host Hueneme on Thursday. The Sharks will play at Saddleback Valley Christian on Saturday, at Carpinteria on Jan. 21 and at Nordoff two days later. 

Furlong said Malibu wants to have a winning record in the Citrus Coast League.

“We want to compete for a league championship,” he said.

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