By Laurel Busby
PaliHi basketball teams finished their Western League season on a high note on Friday, Jan. 11 with both the boys and girls teams winning against LACES. They now prepare for the City Section playoffs.
Pali’s 65-26 victory over LACES capped a strong 11-1 league season, which featured a 9-game winning streak that was only broken on Feb. 3 when the team lost 81- 69 to Mater Dei, an out-of-league opponent now ranked 13th in the state. Senior guard Chelsey Gipson led Pali with 37 points. On Feb. 6, the Dolphins also fell to Fairfax, 64-59, in a tight game. Pali, ranked 53rd in the state, dealt Fairfax, ranked 30th, its only league loss last month.
Palisades, which tied Fairfax for first in the Western League, also trounced Hamilton 75-19 on Feb. 2 and beat Westchester 72-48 on Feb. 8. The latter win provided Coach Torino Johnson his 200th career win for the Dolphins.
Throughout the season, the team has been led by strong guards, including Gipson, who averaged 24.7 points per game, and sophomore Kayla Williams, who averaged 19.3 points and 4.3 steals per game.
Pali, the defending champion in the girls’ Open Division playoffs, will host Narbonne on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.; the semifinals will be on Feb. 25 with the championship played March 4.
With a 82-68 win against LACES, Pali finished with a 7-5 record and third place in the challenging Western League.
The win followed three difficult losses for the team, which is coached by PaliHi grad Donzell Hayes. On Feb. 8, the Dolphins fell 75-40 to Westchester, their second loss to the team that finished second in the league. Undefeated league leader Fairfax also handed Pali a 65-54 loss on Feb. 6 after also winning their two previous meetings, which included a pre-season tournament game on Dec. 1. In addition, Pali lost 56-52 to Hamilton, a team they had beaten 69-56 in January.
Many players excelled throughout the season and the Dolphins’ last four games. For example, against LACES, senior forward Dayne Downey capped his strong performance this year with 26 points.
The boys’ City Section Division I playoffs begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15 with PaliHi hosting Chatsworth. Quarterfinals will be held Feb. 21, semis on Feb. 24, and the championship on March 4.