Cowboys get much-needed league win ahead of matchup with Hart
In a packed house at Castaic High School for the Coyotes’ boys’ basketball senior night, it was Canyon that stole the spotlight Friday night, scoring 31 points in the fourth quarter to get a much-needed win, 64-48.
“I’m just really proud of the guys,” Canyon head coach Ali Monfared said. “They are very resilient and when we play together and we play aggressive like we did — we had 31 points in the fourth quarter because everyone was touching the ball and everyone was being aggressive.”
The Cowboys (13-13, 4-6) needed someone to step up late in the game, and they got two to do so in senior Lincoln Phillips and sophomore Evan Watts. Phillips scored three of his 14 points and gave out three assists in the fourth quarter, while Watts had eight of his 12 points in the final frame.
Phillips nearly had a triple-double, recording nine assists and eight rebounds. Watts finished with five rebounds.
“First half, I felt sluggish,” Watts said. “In the second half I just had to pick it up, pick up my seniors, pick up everybody on the team. As a sophomore, I feel like that’s got to be my role in the team.”
The Coyotes (10-17, 0-10) had their chances, keeping it close for nearly the entire game before taking a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Canyon was able to stave off the Coyotes’ comeback, though, which Castaic head coach Dominique Butler attributed to Castaic still learning how to compete at the tail end of its first varsity season.
“It was just keeping our composure,” Butler said. “When you have a young team with little experience at the varsity level, they get caught up in these moments. And sometimes they don’t know how to handle it or whatever. It just comes with experience and growth. We’re confident these guys to move forward.”
The Castaic gym was rocking for most of the game as the two teams traded baskets throughout. Canyon took a 17-16 lead after one quarter before both offenses were middling through the middle quarters. Canyon led 24-20 at the half and then it was tied at 33-33 entering the fourth quarter.
Castaic senior Carson Golden scored nine points and dished out seven assists after he and the rest of the Coyotes seniors were honored in a pregame ceremony. He was happy to see the Castaic fans backing their team despite the Coyotes still looking for a first Foothill League victory.
“This is the best it’s ever been in terms of the fans,” Golden said.
Canyon had to deal with the added crowd noise as well, though both Watts and Phillips said that the Cowboys had no issues drowning out the noise and focusing on the task at hand.
“I would just stay locked in,” Watts said. “Whether it was on the court or off the court, we don’t listen to any noise, any trash talk, none of that. Just stay together, communicate, and that’s what we got to do.”
Canyon got some boosts throughout the game from all over the roster. Senior Carson Rodi had 12 points and four assists while sophomore Eric Kubel had nine points with two 3-pointers. Both of Kubel’s long-range makes came in the fourth quarter after a slow shooting start.
“In the last five, six minutes, we didn’t think too much,” Monfared said. “We played aggressively and guys made plays for each other. You saw Lincoln making plays for Evan and Carson, and you saw Tyler [Best] rebounding and defending, and Tyler Miller attacking and Eric being ready to shoot shots.”
Monfared was especially pleased with Rodi’s play in the fourth quarter, whether it was looking to make the extra pass or sliding to cover a hole on defense.
“Carson has been defending and leading extremely well the last couple weeks,” Monfared said. “He always makes the unselfish play for the team and has been fantastic everywhere for the team.”
With just two games left in the Foothill League campaign, Canyon enters a crucial matchup with Hart on Tuesday. The Indians (15-10, 4-6) entered Friday a game ahead of Canyon, but their loss on Friday to West Ranch means that the winner of Tuesday’s game would be in sole possession of fourth place and the final automatic playoff spot heading into the final league games next Friday.
“We’re excited for the opportunity,” Monfared said. “We’ve dealt with a lot of injuries and a lot of adversity this year, and so to have this opportunity against a really, really well-coached team, we’re excited and we’re going to come and give our best effort and see what happens on Tuesday.”
Hart and Canyon tip off at 6:30 p.m. at Canyon High School on Tuesday. The Cowboys finish their league campaign next Friday with a home game against Saugus at 6:30 p.m.
Castaic has Saugus at home on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. before traveling to West Ranch next Friday Butler will be looking to see his team finish the season off strong, playing the game the way that he knows the Coyotes are capable of.
“I want them to be consistent,” Butler said. “I want them to work together. I want them to play together and trust each other and not deviate from the concept of team basketball.”