Westlake boys basketball shakes off slow start to beat Simi Valley

WESTLAKE — An old-school rivalry brought out the best in the Westlake and Simi Valley boys basketball teams on Wednesday night in a game that was decided in the final minute of play. Westlake came out on top, 67-63.

“Westlake-Simi, it’s going to be close,” Westlake coach Kyle Kelley said. “Back in the good old days, in the Marmonte league, Westlake and Simi were both in it. And in the Marmonte League, everyone’s a rival.”

Westlake’s Kayden Elsokary hit a corner three to tie the game in a back-and-forth fourth quarter. Dante Deshautelle dished the ball to Danny Bao for a layup and a 62-61 advantage with roughly one minute left to play.

The Warriors (9-3) made six free throws in the final quarter to seal the win.

“The difference was bringing energy,” Deshautelle said, “and knowing that if we stay together don’t rush it and we get those stops, we’re going to get those free throws, we’re going to get those big time shots because we know and trust our teammates.”

Simi Valley (5-6) dominated the first quarter and took a 5-0 lead when Kyle Hoffer hit a 3-pointer with six minutes left in the first quarter. Ryder Mjoen, who surpassed 1,000 career points the week prior made a three with three seconds left to give the Pioneers a 23-9 lead. Simi Valley scored 15 points from beyond the arc in the quarter.

Mjoen finished with a game-high 28 points. Justin Rener contributed 16 points for Simi Valley and Hoffer added 10 points.

“He’s got a great shot,” coach Craig Griffin said of Mjoen. “He works really hard to be good at making those shots. He makes a lot of tough shots and he’s fun to coach and fun to watch.”

Meanwhile, the shots weren’t falling for Westlake. Simi Valley’s scrappy defense clogged the paint, making it difficult for the Warriors to find the net. Westlake had shooting struggles the night prior in a game against Chatsworth, going 5-for-31 from range.

“They’re a switching defense and even with our height advantage, they know us and we know them,” Kegley said.

Dante Deshautelle was a catalyst for some energy in the second quarter when he grabbed a steal and drove to the net for a two-handed dunk. He sank a corner three with three minutes remaining and roughly a minute later, a layup from Rylan Miller tied the score at 31-all.

“I just like to build off my teammates,” Deshautelle said. “Once I get going, once anyone gets going, it’s time to rile the team up. I’ve gotta be that energy guy to bring everyone together.”

Deshautelle scored 16 points in the game for Westlake. Maziasz added 16 points and Elsokary scored a team-high 21 points.

Westlake began to close the gap in the third quarter and closed the frame with momentum when Elsokary made a layup to make it 45-44 in Simi Valley’s favor with 13 seconds remaining, but Ryder Sharts got a layup for himself to keep Simi Valley in the lead.

The fourth quarter was even more closely contested, with the leading changing hands several times. Elsokary’s corner three tied the game at 57-all and later, Austin Maziasz’s mid-range jumper secured a lead that Westlake kept for the remainder of the game.

“We got lucky that Dante’s energy brought us back in the second quarter and the shots started falling,” Kegley said. “We knew it was going to be a close game before we played them and it was a close game.”

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