Pali High Boys Basketball Falls to Bakersfield Christian in Regional Finals
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
As the final two minutes wound down last Tuesday night, Palisades High basketball coach Donzell Hayes subbed out his starters and made sure every player on the bench got into the game. After all, who knows how long it’ll be before the Dolphins go this far again?
Palisades’ playoff run ended with a 57-43 defeat to Bakersfield Christian in the Southern California Regional Division IV finals, but that couldn’t diminish a remarkable season in which the Dolphins won their first section title in 51 years and advanced further in the state tournament than they ever before.
“No disrespect to them… we just didn’t make shots, it’s that simple,” Hayes said. “Our shooting slump actually started last game and we were able to win anyway. Here, they packed us in, forced us to take jumpers and each time we missed they got out in transition. We knew they’d be good. It’s a regional final. They earned their way here just like us. We had film and we took them out of a lot of what they like to do. The balls didn’t bounce our way.”
Despite a sprained shoulder and a sprained thumb senior Graham Alphson had 14 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three blocks in his last high school start—the 20th time in his 29 games played that he led the team in scoring. He also provided the highlight of the contest on an alley-oop dunk on a perfectly-timed pass from Sheldon Zanders to energize the home crowd and start a 10-2 run that pulled the Dolphins within four points in the third quarter, but that was as close as the City Division I champions would get. Zanders scored 10 points and Dylan Griffin and Caden Arnold had seven apiece. Arnold’s putback at the buzzer cut the Dolphins’ deficit to 25-18 at halftime. Right before the boys game Arnold watched his three sisters (Sammie, Elise and Taylor) help lead Palisades’ girls squad defeat Santa Monica for the Division II regional title.
Seeded fifth, the Eagles (27-6) were led by 6-foot-5 forward Ben Yurosek, who had 15 points, and Lendl Henderson Jr., who had 14, including a 3-pointer that put the Central Section Division III champions ahead 48-35 with 4:35 left in the fourth quarter.
The second-seeded Dolphins (18-12) were forced to foul to stop the clock and give themselves a chance, but the visitors seemed to get a basket each time they needed one to thwart any hope of a comeback. For only the second time in seven postseason games Palisades allowed its opponent to score 50 or more points. The first came in the first round of regionals in the Dolphins’ 57-52 triumph over Independence of Bakersfield, which lost twice to Bakersfield Christian in South Yosemite League play.
Bo Nicklas Johansson made a 3-pointer and senior point guard Anthony Spencer, who sat out all of last season because of injury, made two free throws with three rebounds and two assists.
There was a somber mood in the locker room afterwards as one by one the Dolphins came to grips with the fact that their season ended one win short of the state finals. Hayes, however, couldn’t be prouder of a group that bought in from day one of practice.
“This game hurts, no question but it’s icing on the cake,” he said. “We did what we set out to do and that’s to win City. We were able to pull that off and we’ll have the jewelry on the finger and the banner up on the wall that no one can take away.”
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