The euphoria that resulted from the surreal comebacks—there were two of them— against Thousand Oaks, which put the Calabasas boys basketball team in position to play for the Marmonte League championship against Westlake, didn't last long.
The Coyotes crashed back to earth on Thursday night in the unfriendly confines of the Warriors' large gym. Although Calabasas, which finishes the regular season 21-5 overall and 11-3 in league, talked about having destiny in its hands, so did Westlake (22-4, 12-2).
And it turned out that the team of destiny, at least concerning the league title, was the Warriors, who thrashed the Coyotes, 78-53.
Calabasas knew it would be tough to win Thursday night's game on the road, and had it been a close game, a loss might not have been a shock. It would have been a disappointment, but this defeat was pretty shocking.
Now, the Coyotes must head to the CIF playoffs with the task of having to rebound from the worst loss of the season. That shouldn't be a major concern. Calabasas has been resilient all year.
Prior to Thursday night's debacle, the Coyotes' worst outing of the season was at Royal on Jan. 29. The Highlanders won by 16.
“We simply didn’t play well that game and Royal played very well, and I don’t know why that is,” Calabasas coach Jon Palarz said. “It was just their night and it wasn’t our night. They played great."
Calabasas’ other three losses this season were twice by two points and once by three points. “They were all to quality teams," Palarz said.
Now Palarz will have to challenge his players—who, frankly, are self-motivated, so that might not be as hard as one might suspect—to forget about the Westlake game and move on.
Remember, after the loss at Royal, Calabasas came right back and beat Moorpark and Thousand Oaks. And the win against the Lancers was a comeback of monumental proportions.
There is time to get ready for the playoffs, and time to get the Westlake game, which was for the Marmonte League title, out of the Coyotes' systems.
Calabasas should be at home in the first round, which of course will help. Also, the opponent is not likely to be as good a team as the Coyotes. So it's a perfect opportunity to get back on track.
When Palarz was asked about the playoffs, he said he wasn't thinking about that yet. The goal was still the league title and the Westlake game. Junior guard Jeremy Lieberman agreed, but was willing to look ahead a little bit.
The Coyotes won a CIF title last year and lost in the second round of the state playoffs afterwards. Lieberman was asked if, therefore, getting back to state was on the minds of the Calabasas players.
“That’s the main goal,” Lieberman said prior to playing Westlake. “The playoffs are key. Right now we want to win league so can get a better position for those two things (CIF and the state playoffs).”
Calabasas didn't win league. However, the slightly lower seed they will be assigned shouldn't be too big an obstacle for this talented group to make another run at a CIF championship.
But finding a way to avoid clinkers like the games against Royal and Westlake will be crucial. You can sometimes win in the playoffs not playing your 'A' game. But playing games in the 'C' or 'D' range could be disastrous.
Read a preview of the Coyotes' first-round playoff match-up here, a day or two before the game.