While Castaic Coyotes boys’ basketball will have to wait another year for its first Foothill League win, the program can now celebrate something even greater.
Castaic won its first-ever playoff game on Wednesday, defeating the hosting Cal Lutheran C-Hawks, 56-48, in the CIF Division 5AA opening round.
Castaic head coach Dominique Butler thought his team started off the game looking a little tentative. However, the group was able to wake up after a few minutes and post a dynamic second quarter in the historic win.
“The guys enjoyed it, they were hyped,” Butler told The Signal in a phone interview. “First playoff win in Castaic history. I’m just proud of how they stayed the course and they didn’t let up.”
The Coyotes (15-14) outscored the C-Hawks (15-8) by 12 in the second, gifting the visiting team a seven-point lead at halftime.
“Cal Lutheran’s a talented team,” Butler said. “The guys really honed in defensively and knew we needed to get consecutive stops and play playoff basketball. That was the difference between any other game and now because maybe if we didn’t take it as seriously, it may have been a loss. They really were aggressive, energy and intensity were high and whether they were on the court or on the bench, they played for each other. That’s all we ask for.”
The main assignment for Castaic’s defense was slowing down Cal Lutheran junior Ethan Ash. The junior forward still had a terrific game with 23 points, 15 rebounds and two steals, but the Coyotes showed up on defense and forced seven of the C-Hawks’ 23 turnovers from Ash alone.
Butler said Coyote forwards Jack Shand and Tashaun Barron played great on defense and were key in slowing down Ash, while still locking up the paint.
The rest of the game was back and forth, and whenever Cal Lutheran cut down the lead, Castaic was ready with an answer.
Cal Lutheran nearly forced a one-possession game but Butler was impressed with his senior Aaron Lozano, who had just checked in off the bench, and came out of nowhere to grab a rebound and score on a put-back.
The C-Hawks kept fighting and were nearing striking distance late in the fourth quarter and could almost smell a comeback win. The Cal Lutheran momentum was abruptly ended by Castaic senior Christian Clark, who iced the game with a late 3-pointer.
Butler’s team entered the postseason on a five-game losing streak but Castaic was able to break out of the rut and show the dominance they’ve played with in their non-league schedule, where the team is now 15-2.
“Coming out of a losing streak it can be difficult to pick up momentum,” Butler said. “We had a losing streak, but I told them, ‘Don’t worry about what happened in the regular season. It’s 0-0 now.’”
Castaic remains on the road in round two as the team gears up for a battle with the Montclair Cavaliers (16-13).
Montclair is a fellow at-large team, coming off an upset win over Spring Valley.
Castaic makes the near two-hour drive to Montclair on Friday, as the Coyotes and Eagles tip off at 7 p.m.
“Better shot selection, cutting down on the second chance opportunities,” Butler said when asked he what he wants to see from his team on Friday. “For us to move forward, that’s the thing. Communication was good but it can always be better. We’ll make our adjustments, watch film and practice today and tomorrow, we’ll get after it.”