By Laurel Busby
The Palisades High School boys basketball team opened Western League play last week by scrapping its way to two victories.
The games against University High School and Venice High School were battles for much of the time, with PaliHi consistently fighting for each possession and the wins—62-50 over Venice and 73-59 over Uni, which had beaten the Dolphins, 80-76, in a December tournament.
Against Venice on Jan. 11, the game see-sawed back and forth for three quarters after Venice initially coming out strong to score a trio of three pointers and take a 9-4 lead. However, Pali came back quickly to
tie the game at 9 before taking the lead on Zack Lynch’s three pointer with a little over two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
For the rest of the half, Pali’s Dayne Downey contributed eight points on his way to becoming the game’s leading scorer with 17 points, while Chris Kurihara added seven to help the team gain a halftime lead, 29-27.
Once the third quarter started, Venice again took the lead with a three-point shot from Ryan Lee, which Lynch answered with his own three-point basket. The lead shifted several more times until the final two minutes of the quarter when Pali’s Nick Kerkorian downed another three-pointer to give Pali a 38-37 lead.
From that point on, the Dolphins took control. Downey scored two points, followed by two more three-point baskets from Lynch as Pali completed an 11-0 run to take a 46-37 edge entering the fourth quarter. Venice never pulled closer than six points for the rest of the game.
Pali slowed the game, eating up the clock and scoring 16 more points in the quarter to Venice’s 13. Lynch ended with 14 points, while Kerkorian contributed 11.
“It started off slow, but they fought through it,” Coach Donzell Hayes said after the game. “I’m proud of them. I’ll take any win I can get.”
Two days earlier on Jan. 9 against University, the game was also tight for three quarters with the Dolphins leading just 49-47 at the start of the fourth quarter. Uni’s Richard Wilson tied the game, but then Pali’s Daniel Emein, the game’s leading scorer with 21 points, went on a scor- ing spree, downing two three-pointers and a field goal to put Pali up 57-49.
At that point, Uni called a timeout, and when play resumed, Nick Kerkorian, who scored 20 points in the game, added two more baskets, while Uni’s Jude Agbasi also made four free throws. Leading 61-51, Pali scored 10 of its last 12 points on free throws as the Wildcats fouled repeatedly.
Palisades (9-6 overall) travels to LACES today for a 5:30 p.m. game and then plays at home at 6:30 p.m. this Friday (January 20) against Fairfax, which is 13-1 and ranked 8th by the L.A. Times among L.A.- area prep teams. Fairfax beat Uni 82-55 on January 11 and triumphed over Venice 68-28 on January 13.
The Dolphins host Hamilton at 5:30 p.m. on January 23 and then travel to Westchester (14-6 and ranked 13th) on Jan. 25 for a 5:30 p.m. battle.