Canyon boys’ basketball denied the Castaic Coyotes their first Foothill League win in program history on Tuesday, after a 57-53 win.
The hosting Canyon Cowboys (11-8, 2-2) were led by captain Lincoln Phillips, who totaled 22 points and seven assists. Phillips has taken on the challenge from his coach of being more aggressive and working the ball inside. The captain did just that and nearly drew enough fouls to put his team in the bonus in the first quarter.
Even with Phillips’ standout game, Castaic (10-11, 0-4) kept it close throughout. Every time Canyon took a two-possession lead, the Coyotes knocked down big shots and kept finding ways to score.
Sean Deme was a sparkplug for the Coyotes in the second half, when the senior scored 12 of his 14 points while also bringing down 10 boards.
Head coach Dominique Butler was impressed by freshman point guard Noah Crouch yet again. Crouch scored all over the half court and finished with 10 points and six assists.
“I respect the fight in these guys,” Butler said. “They don’t give up and that’s what we ask them to do. It’s an uphill battle being in a second-year varsity program. It’s no excuse at all but these guys have worked hard.”
Canyon would hold on in the end and close out the looming Castaic. Cowboys head coach Ali Monfared was proud of how his team played and their improved ability to fight for a better shot.
“One of our things lately is we’re playing so hard,” Monfared said. “We’re finding ways to get easier baskets and whenever we needed one last night, we found a way to get one.”
Canyon went through a bumpy week at the Classic at Damien, winning one of four games but Monfared believes the high level of play has helped the team grow.
“I thought it was really good for us to go play in that tournament,” Monfared said. “I thought we played in a tough division even though it was lower. We went 1-3 but it was good for us cause it showed what we really needed to work on. It gave us some good film. I’d rather figure it out before we get to league rather than tricking ourselves into thinking we’re something we’re not.”
Monfared has been pleased with the progression of seniors Kobe Ennis and Carson Rodi.
“Kobe Ennis, he’s been a coach’s dream,” Monfared said. “He does everything we ask, has high energy on def, probably has the highest plus-minus on our team. He’s done a phenomenal job of doing whatever’s best for the team.”
“Carson Rodi has evolved from relying on shooting and scoring. He was a good defender but he’s finding ways to impact games. He’s getting deflections, running big or guard on offense. He’s been a flat-out phenomenal leader in practice.”
Rodi finished with nine rebounds against the Coyotes, four being off the offensive glass. Sophomore Evan Watts also played well, adding 10 points and seven rebounds.
Butler believes his team has already developed a sense of urgency needed in league games and has seen his players fighting hard in Foothill League contests. Castaic is still looking for the program’s first league win but has cut the difference in points in three straight games.
“I love it,” Butler said. “[The sense of urgency is] something to build off of and we’re not talking next year, we’re talking right now. We lost by 4 and they’re not down on themselves, they know what they can do better. Fortunately, we’ll see Canyon again in a few weeks and they know we can win this game convincingly if we correct our mistakes as a team.”
Castaic will return home Friday at 6:30 p.m. for a league battle with Saugus. Canyon will be on the road at the same time to take on Hart. The Coyotes and Cowboys will meet again on Friday, Jan. 27, for round two at Castaic.