ANAHEIM -- Playing in an arena the size of Anaheim Convention Center can be a challenge for high school basketball teams accustomed to playing in the comfortable confines of a gymnasium.
Not so for the Calabasas boys’ team.
The Coyotes stormed out of the gates Thursday night against South Torrance in the Division 3AA championship game, taking a 23-point lead after the opening quarter en route to a 69-39 victory and the program’s first section title.
Four players scored in double figures for top-seeded Calabasas, led by 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard Jeremy Lieberman, who scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the decisive first quarter.
“My coach always says to me, come out and just look for everybody else, but for some reason we were getting out on the break because of our defense and I was hitting my open shots,” Lieberman said.
The Coyotes (27-3) played in their only other section final in 2004, losing by two points to Santa Margarita on a blocked shot at the buzzer by future UCLA player James Keefe.
They made sure it wasn't close this time around.
Calabasas scored the final 20 points of the first quarter to take a 25-2 lead and then scored the first two points of the second. South Torrance missed 12 of 13 shots in the opening quarter.
“I think we were a little overwhelmed,” said South Torrance junior forward Kenichi Hackman. “I don’t think we ever played a team that shot that well, especially out of the gate.”
Holden Israel chipped in 14 points for the Cowboys, fellow senior Spencer Levy had 13 and 6-5 sophomore forward Austin Smith had 10 points and nine rebounds.
South Torrance, which made its only other finals appearance 1993, was led by Girban Sewani with 11 points and Jake Ly with 10.