Before the start of a recent Oaks Christian boys basketball game, Mike Westphal, now an assistant coach for the Lions but last year an assistant for Calabasas and head coach Jon Palarz, spoke briefly with a reporter.
“That was quite a run, wasn’t it?” Westphal said, remembering the playoffs from a year ago during which the Coyotes won a CIF championship.
Calabasas is pursuing a repeat, but will face what may be its toughest test of the season when it hosts Compton tonight in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AAA quarterfinals at 7 p.m. at Calabasas High School.
“It’s a team that is having a very good year, coming from a very good league,” Palarz said. “What I’ve learned about them is impressive.”
Calabasas is 23-5 on the year. Compton comes to town with a 19-9 record, but overall they’ve had a tougher schedule than the Coyotes.
Maxpreps lists Compton, which plays in the Moore League, as the 35th ranked team in California while Calabasas is ranked 51st.
Although the Coyotes, the No. 5 seed in Division 3AAA, possess pretty good height, with two players at least 6-foot-7, Compton, seeded fourth, will still present a challenge due to its height and speed.
“They’re an athletic team and they have a lot of length,” Palarz said. “Oftentimes they have four players on the court who are 6-3, 6-4, 6-6. They don’t have any one single player maybe as tall as our tallest player, but they have a lot of team-length.
“And they use it well in a zone press and in a variety of defenses that require a lot of preparation.”
Max Hoetzel, at 6-8, and Austin Smith, who is 6-7, will offset some of the problems Calabasas might have with Compton’s size. Both are juniors. Michael Hayon, a 6-4 sophomore, should also be a factor for the Coyotes.
Danny Azran, who is recovering from an injury, played a few minutes against Westlake in the regular-season finale loss to the Warriors, which gave Westlake the Marmonte League title.
Since that loss Calabasas has rebounded with two playoffs wins, a 70-56 victory over Rio Mesa and a 60-44 triumph at Palm Desert.
Azran played more in each of each of those games and Palarz is hopeful the senior guard can contribute a quarter to a quarter and a half of playing time again tonight.
Still, as of Monday night, the Coyotes' coach said he wasn’t sure if Azran, Hayon or possibly Cooper Pedati, also a senior guard, would join Hoetzel, Smith, Jeremy Lieberman, and Alex Monsegue in the starting lineup.
The Coyotes might need solid outings from all in order to move on to the CIF semifinals against the winner of top-seeded Tustin and ninth-seeded Bonita. The semifinals will be Friday night.
Although the Coyotes were disappointed by the loss to Westlake – a win would have given Calabasas its second consecutive league title – Palarz said his team has recovered well.
“The loss to Westlake was a very disappointing performance for our team,” he said. “Westlake played a great game and I give them a lot of credit. But we certainly wish we had done things differently.
“(However), I’m pleased with how we played last week. I think we played two pretty solid games, especially Friday night at Palm Desert. We played one of our most complete games of the year, so our kids have bounced back.”