Sports & Recreation

Anzar High Hawks basketball remains undefeated

After a decisive victory over Pajaro Valley, the team aims to keep its momentum.

The Anzar Hawks boy’s basketball team scored a decisive 73-48 victory against the Pajaro Valley Grizzlies on Jan. 24, their fourth win in an undefeated season. Many players returned from last year’s team, which did not lose a league game until the playoffs against the St. Francis Sharks, and the team finds itself in familiar territory—with some reservations.

“I think the competition is similar,” said senior Max Castro, 17. “But some of the teams definitely got better. We’re still improving ourselves, and we have some new freshmen that we are trying to work with. We’re connecting, getting better each game, but there is still stuff to work on.”

After taking the team to the playoffs last year for only the second time in the school’s history, Head Coach Rance Hodge Jr. said he warned his players about being too overconfident. 

“I told the guys ahead of time, even at the end of last season, that there’s a target on our backs,” he said. “And this is probably the first time in my coaching experience here at Anzar we’ve been in that position. I do not want to predict another undefeated season, but I will say we are striving for it.”

The drubbing they got in pre-season tournament games from higher division teams like Hollister (59-32) and Gilroy (70-43) helped give the Hawks some needed perspective going into their league games.

“Those losses felt bad,” said senior Warren Du, 17. “They were totally unexpected. We came to this season thinking we’re all the best, and then those D1 guys, they humbled us. They beat us by as much as we beat other teams last season.”

Hodge said watching the team take those losses was not pleasant but ultimately proved useful.

“It showed us where we are lacking and deficient and what we need to work on,” he said. “So I think it was helpful. We were close in most of the games, but the other teams had a better edge and more discipline. And that’s what we’re trying to implement here.”

One thing helping the Hawks succeed is that the core players are six seniors who have played together for years. And their loyalty to one another is obvious—while Hodge instructed Castro and Wu to mention their teammates during their interviews for this article, he may as well not have bothered. Both players were quick to name names and offer praise.

“Erixson Sundiam is a good ball handler,” Castro said. “He’s got good passes, down low. Aidan Doupnik is starting to get big and getting rebounds. Shane Freeman has become a good shooter and moves around in defense. And Julian Martinez helps us in defense, too.” 

Hodge describes Castro as a great, coachable all-around player, saying he plays defense and offense equally well. “He’s very much a team player. And, you know, he’s everywhere. He plays the whole game. He doesn’t get tired.”

Hodge praised point guard Du as well. “He does very well attacking, fast break, and distributing the ball. His shooting has improved a lot since last season.” Indeed, Du scored 27 of the team’s 73 points, and he added a few more players to Castro’s list.

“Issac Kapadia’s a sophomore,” Du said, “He is probably the third-best player on the team, and I think he’ll lead them next year when we all leave. And Josh Vega is a good ball handler, shooter, and a good defender. He might be short, but he can guard down low.”

Hodge said he is definitely going to miss his six seniors when they leave at the end of the year, saying they helped piece together great back-to-back seasons.

“These last two years have been fun,” he said. “I’ve been really excited, and they have been easy to coach. They also propelled me to be a better coach. I definitely will miss these guys, but we have some young players who are very promising like Aaron Galvin and Oliver Doupnik, who are both freshmen. So we have some pieces of the team already and I am hoping for some freshmen who could help us solidify things.”

With seven games left until the playoffs, Castro is optimistic about their chances of taking them all.

“I think we have an impressive defense and we hustle the whole time,” he said. “There’s some stuff we can work on, but overall I think the season’s going really good. I am confident that we can do it again.”

Upcoming Anzar Hawks games, all starting at 7 p.m.

Jan. 26: Pacific Collegiate High School (home game)

Jan. 30: York High School (away game)

Feb. 1: Trinity High School (home game)

Feb. 3: Ceiba High School (away game at Watsonville High School)

Feb. 8: Kirby High School (home game)

Feb. 10: Pacific Point High School (home game)

Feb. 14: Pajaro Valley High School (away game)



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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.