By Laurel Busby
The Palisades High School boys basketball team played two dramatic tournament games in late December, losing once in the final seconds and then winning the other with their final shot.
Pali’s Chris Kurihara sank that winning shot with three seconds left to give the Dolphins a 72-70 win in their last game of the D1Bound Christmas Classic tournament on Dec. 30. However, just two days earlier, Van Nuys scored at the buzzer to defeat Pali, 48-47.
The loss was a difficult one as the Dolphins came out strong in the first quarter to take an 18-9 lead, but then the next two quarters were exactly even with each team earning 6 points in the second quarter and 10 in the third. Still, Pali retained its 9-point first-quarter lead until Van Nuys stormed back, outscoring the Dolphins 23-13 to earn the one-point win at the buzzer.
The last minutes were particularly tough as the two teams vied for the lead. Coach Donzell Hayes had previously told the News that in these tight games while the players are fighting their hardest, the coaches have a battle of wits going on. “It’s a chess game always—the kids are out there playing, but the coaches are playing chess,” Hayes said.
Six-ft. senior guard Daniel Emein scored 19 points against Van Nuys, and 5-10 sophomore point guard Nick Kerkorian added 15.
Pali’s other two games in the tournament were not nearly so dramatic. On Dec. 29, the Dolphins lost to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 44-32, and in their tournament opener, they fell to Cathedral, 77-54.
Three Pali players had particularly good showings against Cathedral. Kurihara, a 6-2 senior, scored 18 points, Kerkorian contributed 17 and 6-0 senior guard Michael Spencer added 11. The three combined for all but 9 of the Dolphins’ total.
Pali’s record is now 6-5 for the tournament season, with another non-conference game scheduled against Morningside in Inglewood tonight at 7:30 p.m.
The always-tough Western League season begins Jan. 9 with a home game at 5:30 p.m. against University High, which defeated the Dolphins 80-76 in the championship game of Uni’s December tournament.
For the Dolphins, “it’s been interesting playing Uni and Fairfax [a perennial league power] so early in the year,” said coach Hayes, a 1996 PaliHi grad. Pali lost to Fairfax 60-40 on Dec. 1. “We’re not used to getting to see these guys so soon.”
On Jan. 11, Pali plays a 5:30 p.m. game at Venice High School, another league rival.