Castaic boys basketball wins CIF-SS 5AA title after seizing second chances on and off the court

Ethan Thomas #20 of Castaic shoots against El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Tashaun Barron #0 of Castaic reacts after a foul in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game against El Segundo in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Giovanni Guardado #24 of Castaic scrambles for the loose ball against El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Castaic bench reacts after a basket against El Segundo in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Scott Martin of El Segundo reacts against Castaic in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Vito Cavallo of Castaic hugs teammate Ethan Thomas #20 of Castaic after defeating El Segundo 63-52 to win a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Gavin McKinnon #1 of El Segundo blocks the shot of Ethan Thomas #20 of Castaic as teammate Shane Biscaya #2 of El Segundo goes up for the ball in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Shane Biscaya #2 of El Segundo drives to the basket against Kevin Curtis #11 of Castaic in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Shane Biscaya #2 of El Segundo blocks the shot by Giovanni Valentin #1 of Castaic in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Ethan Thomas #20 of Castaic drives to the base against Gavin McKinnon #1 and teammate Shane Biscaya #2 of El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Lucas Milan #13 of Castaic drives to the basket against Elijah Coles #4 of El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Giovanni Valentin #1 of Castaic drives to the basket against El Segundo in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

El Segundo walks off after Castaic defeated El Segundo 63-52 to win a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Lucas Milan #13 of Castaic drives to the basket against Elijah Coles #4 of El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Dominique Butler of Castaic reacts against El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Ethan Thomas #20 of Castaic drives to the basket against Elijah Coles #4 of El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Elijah Coles #4 of El Segundo drives to the basket against Lucas Milan #13 of Castaic in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Giovanni Valentin #1 of Castaic drives to th basket against Shane Biscaya #2 of El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Ethan Thomas #20 of Castaic rebounds against Jack Pintens #5 of El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Elijah Coles #4 of El Segundo rebounds over Kevin Curtis #11 of Castaic in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Castaic fans cheer against El Segundo in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Ethan Thomas #20 of Castaic drives to the basket against Gavin McKinnon #1 of El Segundo in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Dominique Butler of Castaic holds up the championship plaque after defeating El Segundo 63-52 to win a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Lucas Milan #13 of Castaic reacts with teammate Ethan Thomas #20 of Castaic after a foul by Elijah Coles (not pictured) of El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Keith Puckett #0 of El Segundo is fouled against Castaic in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Gavin McKinnon #1 of El Segundo blocks the shot by Christian Clark #2 of Castaic in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Elijah Coles #4 of El Segundo drives to the basket against Kevin Curtis #11 of Castaic in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Giovanni Guardado #24 of Castaic scrambles for the loose ball against El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Giovanni Valentin #1 of Castaic drives to the basket against El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Gavin McKinnon #1 of El Segundo reches for the rebound against Castaic in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Ethan Thomas #20 of Castaic drives to the base against Gavin McKinnon #1 of El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Giovanni Valentin #1 of Castaic is fouled driving to the basket against Shane Biscaya #2 of El Segundo in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Scott Martin of El Segundo reacts against Castaic in the first half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Dominique Butler of Castaic reacts against El Segundo in the second half of a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Dominique Butler of Castaic smiles after defeating El Segundo 63-52 to win a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Ethan Thomas, right, #of Castaic hugs teammate Kevin Curtis #11 of Castaic after defeating El Segundo 63-52 to win a CIF-SS Division 5AA boys basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

of

Expand

AZUSA — Ethan Thomas grabbed a rebound and made his shot after to give Castaic boys basketball a one-point lead in the third quarter and momentum to build on in the CIF Southern Section Division 5AA championship game.

Moments like the rebound led the Coyotes to win their first CIF-SS title with a 63-52 victory against El Segundo on Friday at Azusa Pacific University.

It’s not the only second try that Castaic (19-14) has had, nor the most impactful. Castaic seized second-chance opportunities to develop a championship team, improve individual players and give head coach Dominique Butler renewed life.

“I had to be strong for the guys but I really wanted to (get emotional), especially to see them crying and seeing them happy like that,” Butler said. “It’s always been about them and we stayed the course.”

Butler was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism in his heart and lungs in 2021, which led to a stage four ulcer that left a hole in his back. The health scare forced him to relearn how to walk and consider living a more active lifestyle.

He saw that Castaic was seeking a boys basketball coach when he moved into the area and decided to apply. He was hired on the same day he interviewed.

“This team, not only have they helped us win a championship,” Butler said, “but they’ve helped me as well, too, health-wise and staying active and being a better person so I could be a mentor.”

It took two seasons under Butler’s guidance for the Coyotes to win a CIF-SS title despite winning only one Foothill League game — on a forfeit — in their three years of existence as a varsity program.

Castaic won the opening tip in Friday’s championship game and scored the first points on a layup by Thomas, but El Segundo (23-10) went on a 6-0 scoring run to build a lead.

Kevin Curtis made a 3-pointer for the Coyotes with 2:32 left in the opening quarter and Lucas Milan grabbed a steal as soon as the Eagles got the ball and took it in for a layup. He made the and-one shot to tie the game at 9-9.

El Segundo recaptured the lead by the end of the frame. The Eagles made 17 of 20 free throws in the first half for a 25-13 advantage at the break, although each team scored 13 points in the second quarter.

Giovanni Valentin scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half to give the Coyotes a boost. Valentin spent the last two seasons academically ineligible but has maintained a 3.0 GPA this season as a senior.

“I’ve been talking with coach and he’s been helping me out with school,” Valentin said. “I like to say I’m a student-athlete, not an athlete-student.”

Milan, who finished with 10 points and four steals, hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in the third quarter and Castaic went on to close out the frame with a 47-43 lead and didn’t trail for the entirety of the final quarter.

Thomas scored 13 points and pulled down six rebounds after illness prevented him from taking the court for all of last season. The senior has to drink more water than most people to keep his health in check, but the situation provided an opportunity for him and Butler to work together to achieve their health goals.

“We have a shared story,” Butler said. “So it’s like, you hold me to mine and I’ll hold you to yours.”

Players and coaches have had their individual second chances that have allowed them to hoist a championship trophy, but the team as a whole had a do-over when it got into the Division 5AA playoffs as an at-large bid after another winless Foothill League season.

“Something clicked in our heads and we’re like, oh, it’s go time,” Milan said. “It’s a brand-new season, a brand-new start. Our first practice was supposed to be a shoot-around. It ended up being a full-on practice.”

The season resets again for Castaic on Sunday afternoon when the CIF releases the brackets for the state tournament. It’s another new beginning for a team that’s already made the most of the second-chance opportunities presented.

Related Articles

High School Sports |


Antelope Valley girls basketball runs past St. Pius X-St. Matthias in Division 5A championship game

High School Sports |


Birmingham girls basketball used depth, championship pedigree to reach City Open Division final

High School Sports |


Daily News boys basketball: Preview of Harvard-Westlake’s matchup in CIF-SS Open Division final

High School Sports |


Oak Park girls soccer used wild-card designation as championship inspiration

High School Sports |


Daily News boys athlete of the week: Primo Catalano, Chaminade

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *