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Making His Point

Sharda Assumes Replacement Role in Playoffs and Helps Simi Valley Reach Division I-A Championship Game


SIMI VALLEY — When point guard Shaun Michel quit the Simi Valley High boys' basketball team before the last game of the regular season, the other players realized they'd have to elevate their games for the Pioneers to make a deep run in the Southern Section Division I-A playoffs.

No one needed to improve more than Anish Sharda.

The 6-foot-2 senior had started at shooting guard and played the point when Michel was out of the lineup. But Sharda became the full-time point guard when Michel left the team on Feb. 11 after walking out of the previous game at halftime following an argument with Coach Christian Aurand, who had suspended Michel in five other games for disciplinary reasons.

"I viewed it as an opportunity and a challenge," Sharda said. "Not only for me, but for each player on this team to step it up and do a little bit more than before."

Sharda and his teammates have done plenty in the playoffs. No. 3-seeded Simi Valley (28-2) plays top-seeded and defending champion Mater Dei (31-1) in the I-A Division championship game at 8:45 tonight at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.

Sharda, who averaged 2.7 points and 1.3 assists as a reserve on a 28-3 Pioneer squad last season, has averaged 8.5 points and 7.0 assists in Simi Valley's four playoff victories.

He had 13 points and nine assists in a 77-58 semifinal victory over Moreno Valley Rancho Verde on Tuesday, and a productive game tonight would increase the Pioneers' chances of upsetting the No. 11-ranked team in the nation by USA Today.

"I know they're going to concentrate on shutting down Branduinn [Fullove]," Sharda said of his 6-5 teammate who is averaging 24.7 points.

"Brett [Michel] is having a great year and Dustin [Villepigue] has scored a lot of points in the last couple of games, so they're not going to leave them alone . . . I expect to get some open shots and I have to step up and hit them."

Sharda did that in the first half against Rancho Verde, making three three-pointers on his way to scoring 11 points in the first 16 minutes.

"We'd been telling Anish all season that his time would come," Aurand said. "The other night was one of those games when we needed him to step up and hit some big shots, and he did."

Sharda's semifinal performance was particularly satisfying to Aurand because he saw how hard Sharda worked last summer.

"He came every day we had individual workouts," Aurand said. "He really worked on his shooting . . . and it shows. He's made us a better team because we have more weapons."

Sharda, a B student who scored 1,260 points on the SAT, credits the Simi Valley coaching staff for his improvement.

"They've done a great job with me," he said. "They taught me a lot of things last summer. They taught me how to shoot the ball, how to move without the ball, how to get open off screens. They taught me a lot of the little things that get overlooked."

A victory tonight would give Simi Valley its first section title since 1988 and a school-record 29 victories.

Perhaps more importantly, it would prove the Pioneers were able to overcome a tumultuous regular season.

"We just put all that aside [for the playoffs]," Sharda said. "We put everything that happened behind us and really tried to focus on making this run."



Southern Section Boys' Basketball Division I-A Final

Simi Valley (28-2)


Mater Dei (31-1)

Tonight, 8:45

Arrowhead Pond


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