League Champs

Pali High Girls Hoops Beats Westchester to Clinch Title

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

When he gathered his team together before the first practice of the season Palisades High girls basketball coach Adam Levine revealed several goals for the long journey ahead.

First and foremost was winning the Western League title, something the Dolphins failed to accomplish despite capturing the City Section Division I championship last winter. They can finally check that one off the list after pulling away from host Westchester, 69-50, last Friday to clinch their first league title since 2017 when they shared the honors with Fairfax in their final season under Torino Johnson (now the women’s head coach at Cal State Los Angeles).

“We were third in league last year so it’s been a priority since day one to not only win it but to go undefeated,” Levine said. “We played under control, built a good lead and stayed calm, cool and collected whenever they made a run. This was one of our best games, a great win on the road against a team that has its best player back and a team we could see again in the [Open  Division] playoffs.”

Demonnie Lagway led the way with 20 points, Jane Nwaba had 19 and Alexis Pettis added 12 for the Dolphins, who  traveled to Hamilton two days before and held off the Yankees 59-50 in what Levine called the craziest game of the year.

“First there was an altercation which fortunately didn’t escalate, then one of their players had a seizure and one of our parents was praying with the girl’s family,” Levine said. “It wasn’t your ordinary game. We could’ve easily gotten distracted and lost our concentration, but the key was we kept our composure and stayed five or six points ahead the whole way. Last time, at our place, we let them climb back and even take the lead.”

Palisades returned to its own gym Monday to take on University and won easily, 78-14, for its 11th victory in 12 games.   The Dolphins hosted Venice on Senior Night yesterday.

“We’ve been able to mix in a few Southern Section opponents  with our league games and it’s helped us maintain a high level of play. Of course, getting Jane [Nwaba] back from injury was huge and hopefully we can stay healthy the rest of the way.”

Palisades went 2-10 to finish last in league in 2017-18 under Danielle Foley. Levine took over the program last winter and the Dolphins went 8-3, finishing  one-half game behind Hamilton.   Westchester won the league and made the Open Division final.

    Palisades has played one of the toughest schedules of any team in the City Section and had one  last playoff sharpener Tuesday at Orangewood Academy in Garden Grove before hosting Venice for Senior Night yesterday.

    City playoff brackets will be determined Saturday and the Dolphins are projected to be a high seed in the Open Division.

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