Anzar High guard Erixson Sundiam looks for an opening during the Hawks' 69-52 win over University Prep in a Central Coast Section Division V playoff game Feb. 17. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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It’s been quite a journey for the Anzar High boys basketball team. Three years ago, the Hawks won just two games. 

The following year, they didn’t even take the court due to Covid. But last season was the start of Anzar’s revival. It finished 12-2 overall and a perfect 9-0 to win the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Arroyo Division, culminating with a Central Coast Section playoff appearance. 

This season the Hawks continued to elevate, finishing the regular-season 16-5 including a perfect 14-0 to win the Santa Lucia Division. That earned them a No. 9 seed in the Division V playoffs, where they won their opener Feb. 17 before losing the next night to No. 8 seed Pinewood, 71-70.

All of this has happened under the guidance of coach Rance Hodge, who also was named the school’s new athletic director in November. Bringing energy, enthusiasm, organization and a solid coaching pedigree, Hodge has credited the players—especially the senior class—for epitomizing hard work and commitment. 

He points to three-sport standout Max Castro—who went off for 32 points in the 69-52 playoff win over University Prep—as a prime example of what it means to be a quality student-athlete. 

“You can use him as the model because Max is high-achieving on and off the court,” Hodge said, referring to Castro’s 4.0 GPA.

Castro can play any position but Hodge typically has him at center or power forward. Castro can do it all, from scoring, rebounding, blocking shots and handling the ball. 

“He’s one of those players you never want to see graduate because you’re not going to replace someone like him,” Hodge said. “I think he’s going to add a lot to a college program.” 

Though some players obviously stand out, Hodge said everyone has played a part in the success of the team. 

“It’s been a collective effort with everyone contributing in high volumes to our program,” he said. “Naturally, we do have a couple of guys on offense skill-wise that stand out, but our practice players, our young guys, I want to commend them all for being committed to get better as an individual and as a collective unit.”

Senior Erixson Sundiam has been sensational at point guard, finding holes in the defense and capable of hurting opponents with his passing and shooting. He came through huge with a season-high 18 points in a 63-49 win over Pajaro Valley in the league finale Feb. 9. Just as important, Sundiam’s attitude and mindset is what every coach wants in a competitor. 

“Erixson is like that universal player you want and is not afraid of the moment,” Hodge said. 

Senior combo guard Warren Du has erupted at times offensively, scoring 20 or more points six different times including a high of 28 vs. Trinity Christian on Jan. 4. Du also had 19 points against University Prep.  

“His numbers exceed what I thought,” Hodge said. “His shooting has improved tremendously, he’s very aggressive on defense and you would think he’s a 6-5 forward-center the way he trails the ball, locates it and knocks it out of people’s hands. He gets a lot of steals.”

Indeed, Du averaged around five steals a game, including a remarkable eight steals against Pacific Point Christian School on Feb. 10. Sophomore Isaac Kapdia was the lone non-senior in the starting lineup, a testament to his talent and work ethic. Kapadia excels underneath the basket and utilizes a hook shot, which is a dying art in today’s game. He’s also strong on the boards, grabbing 10 rebounds vs. Pacific Point. 

“Isaac grew a couple of inches from last year and has developed his interior game in an amazing way,” Hodge said. “He’s very active, very fast, and I’m looking forward to him stepping up in a leadership role next year. He’s been a God-send to say the least.”

Senior Alan Arriaga is a high-energy player who provides solid defense and excels on the fast break. 

“Alan has a way of being able to maneuver in the key against bigger opponents,” Hodge said. “He’s very aggressive and I love his game. He’s doing everything all over the place and it kind of reminds me of my game.”

Another senior, Josh Vega, provides an impact vocally, directing traffic and making sure the team communicates both offensively and defensively. Hodge said Vega’s shooting was pivotal against Pajaro Valley, which provided Anzar with its toughest challenge in league play. 

The score was 22-22 at halftime before the Hawks pulled away with a dominant third quarter. 

“Josh’s shooting kept us close [in the first half] and put us up a couple of times,” Hodge said. “He’s always asking how he can get better and that’s something you enjoy as a coach.”

Another senior, Shane Freeman, can flat-out shoot while junior Julian Martinez is similar to Arriaga in defensive intensity and toughness, Hodge said. Junior center Aidan Doupnik has been strong on the glass and is another cornerstone player for next season. 

“We’re looking for Aidan to be the backbone of our defense and a top rebounder next year,” Hodge said. 

Three freshmen—Oliver Doupnik, Aaron Galvan and Mason MacDonald—have earned Hodge’s praise for their improvement and passion for the game. Hodge said MacDonald will be transferring to another school next year and will be missed, but Doupnik and Galvan will return and be key pieces going forward. 

“Oliver has gotten a lot better and more confident in the interior,” Hodge said. “He’s going to be great. And Aaron is somewhat new to basketball coming from football but I love his desire to get better and am looking forward to him being a part of continuing to build our culture.”

Warren Du had 19 points in Anzar’s playoff victory over University Prep. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Max Prep had a game-high 32 points in the Hawks’ playoff win over UPA. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.

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