Malibu High Sharks boys basketball player Elijah Shayne peered into the teeth of the Carpinteria Warriors’ defense on Feb. 6 and didn’t falter.
After receiving a pass at the top of the three-point arc in the Malibu High gym, the 12th grader dribbled once, crossed over and dribbled again between two defenders. Shayne, a wing player, seemingly briefly lost the ball, but corralled it in time to finish a layup at the rim as a bevy of Malibu High students in the stands cheered.
Shayne just wanted to get to the rim.
“I just used some of my old, previous knowledge—street-balling knowledge—to get to the hoop and put it up with my left hand,” he said.
And why wouldn’t Shayne score such an exciting bucket? After all, it was senior night for the Sharks.
Shayne was one of five seniors who started the game’s first and second halves for Malibu. There was Ryan Ross hitting a three-point shot on offense and clapping his hands and ice grilling a Warriors’ ball handler while playing defense. Justin Pilot launched a shot from the land of three also, while Graeme MacPherson and Ari Jordanou tallied points in the scorebook, too. The quintet was also recognized in a special ceremony before the game’s first dribble.
Malibu lost the contest, 52-31, resulting in them closing the season with a 6-18 record, but Shayne, a regular starter for Malibu, enjoyed his final hoops outing as a Shark. He described the evening as bittersweet.
“It feels good and bad at the same time,” Shayne said. “I’m bummed that it’s my last game that I will ever play, but it feels good to accomplish my four years of playing basketball.”
Malibu coach Larry Furlong said the team was excited about the game. He liked that the gym’s stands were filled with Malibu fans and that the walls were adorned with handmade posters acknowledging the players.
“We wanted it to feel like a senior night at a college,” Furlong said. “It was a really great atmosphere. It’s a ‘thank you’ to this year’s seniors, but it’s just as important for the younger kids, so they say, ‘Wow. That was fun. That is what my senior year is going to be like.’”
Throughout the Sharks’ 2019-20 campaign, more than a couple of the seniors taking the floor together was a rarity, so entering the season-ending match, the five’s goals were to have fun and taking quality shots while they were on the court together. The bunch even designed their own plays.
“We would call like ‘J buckets’ for J.P.,’” said Shayne, citing the name of a play that called for Pilot to take a shot. “We wanted to have a good celebration tonight.”
Malibu was down 10 points with seven minutes before halftime. A layup by sophomore Cameron Nwede cut Carpinteria’s lead to 19-13 a few minutes later, but the visiting squad then hit back-to-back three-pointers. Malibu’s Dean Furlong, the coach’s son, splashed a triple right before junior Shark Hunter Bercu swatted one Warriors shot, then blocked another shot minutes later. Malibu found itself down, 29-16, at halftime, though.
Shayne converted his stylish layup after driving between two defenders and then swished a jump shot in the opening minutes of the second half. Nwede scored off a lob thrown to him by the younger Furlong next, but Malibu still trailed, 37-22, at the end of the third quarter.
A three by Furlong earned the Sharks’ first points of the game’s final quarter. The second-year Shark nailed a jumper minutes before Ross splashed a triple with four minutes left in the game. MacPherson’s make from the foul line with under two minutes left was Malibu’s final point of the contest.
Nwede said the game was fun.
“It was a celebration of the seniors,” he said.
Malibu’s coach called the senior night the best moment of the season.
“This was a night where nobody cared about playing time,” Furlong said. “The kids didn’t feel an enormous amount of pressure. They were able to have fun, and they made the game competitive for a while.”
Malibu grabbed wins over Grace Brethren, Nordhoff, Laguna Blanca, Beacon Hill and Santa Paula this season. The squad also had a win due to a forfeit.
Furlong said more victories were a possibility for Malibu but hopes garnered a lot of positives from their season.
“We were not going to win the league, but I think we could have and should have won more games,” the coach said. “When I look at the kids’ faces, I remember this about them: This is about their experiences. Did they learn from it even if we didn’t win games? If they are [learning], that is all that matters.”
The Sharks’ returning players for next season include the younger Furlong, Nwede, Bercu, juniors Armen Santizo and Jordan Wilson, and freshmen Josh Doyle and Zander Jarnum. All of them were on the court regularly for Malibu this season.
“Going into next year, that’s our top seven, and they are a year more experienced,” coach Furlong said. “Next year’s team will know how to win better than this year’s team did.”
The coach said the players will have to work on their games over the offseason though, in order to swish a successful season next winter.
“You got to do the work,” Furlong said. “Just because you show up doesn’t mean you are going to be a year better. That year gives you a year of work, and that work is going to make you a year better. Not just getting older.”
Furlong will do all he can to help the Sharks improve during the spring and summer months.
“I’m going to give them an outlet to do that,” he said.
“Nwede said this year could have been better for the Sharks, but he is looking forward to his junior season.
“We have a lot of talent on this team,” he said, adding that the Sharks formed a bond over the season that will help them during the 2020-21 campaign. “We became more like brothers.”