Anzar High School’s Hawks take first playoff game

Second game is scheduled for Feb. 18 against Pinewood Panthers.
Anzar High vs University Prep Academy. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Anzar High vs University Prep Academy. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Anzar Hawks graduating seniors. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Anzar Hawks graduating seniors. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Editor’s note: This article was published before the semifinal game against Pinewood, which Anzar lost 71-70.

The Anzar Hawks won their first playoff game with a 69-52 score against University Prep Academy on Feb. 17 before an enthusiastic hometown crowd. The win advances them to the second round, playing against the Pinewood Panthers tonight, Feb. 18. If victorious, it would be the first time in the school’s history that Anzar moved on to the finals.

The Hawks go into the game against the Panthers carrying a school record this season of 14 consecutive wins with no losses, beating the previous 10-0 record they set last year before losing to St. Francis High School in the first round of the playoffs. 

No other Anzar basketball team has gone undefeated, a testament to the strength and talent of the core players, graduating seniors Alan Arriaga, Max Castro, Warren Du, Shane Freeman, Erixson Sundiam and Josh Vega. 

“With these guys, it is always a team effort,” said coach Rance Hodge. “When we took control of the lead tonight, it was all working as a team with hustle plays, outside passes and minimizing turnovers, so I can’t single out just one or two of the players.  I have to give it to the team.”

The Hawks got off to a shaky start, struggling to stay on top and ending with a 10-7 score in the first quarter. Anyone who had seen the previous game against Pajaro Valley High might have been going through an uncomfortable moment of deja vu, as the team went through a serious challenge to maintain a lead for the first three quarters of that game, before breaking out in the fourth quarter to win 63-49.

“We started out in that game really slow,” said Castro. “We walked in very confident and that messed us up. We did not begin the game with the intensity we needed and we let them push past us.”

This playoff game should have gone a lot smoother. University Prep lacked five players who were involved in a junior class activity, which left the team with only three players to spare. 

But memories of the Hawks’ defeat last year had been weighing on the team’s minds and threw their rhythm off at the start.

“At the beginning of the game, obviously the nerves were all there because it’s a Central Coast Section playoff game,” Freeman said. “The players on our team have only been here once before and we still had a chip on our shoulder about losing that game. So, I think we kind of let the nerves get the best of us for a little bit. We did not play to our expectations in that game and did not want to do that again.”

However, things turned around in the second quarter, with Du making nine points and Castro adding eight more, helping to end the half with a score of 35-20 and giving them a comfortable lead, they maintained for the rest of the game.

Part of it was an adjustment to their strategy and not just coming out swinging at the start.

“I feel like this time our team was a lot less rushed,” said Sundiam “ We’re actually taking time and we’re not rushing shots. So I definitely feel like we need that kind of composure and patience for the next game. We need to wait for everything to open up.”

Hodge was pleased with the playoff game with the team’s progress as they learn from game to game but says he has no idea about what kind of opponent they will be facing in Pinewood.

“I have no Intel on them and I looked online but I didn’t find any videos,” he said “So I’m not sure what we’re walking into but our guys know what they have to do to win—they need to minimize the turnovers and mistakes. It’s been a wonderful season and I’m thankful for the fans that came out. I’m hoping we can keep things moving forward and push through to the finish”


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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.