By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
If the Palisades High boys basketball team needed confidence before resuming Western League action it got some Monday night, beating Maranatha 81-61 to take third place in the Spot Up SoCal Christmas Classic at Providence High in Burbank.
The Dolphins won three of four tournament games to push their record above the .500 mark at 7-6 going into their Jan. 13 league contest at Westchester. They were sixth at the same tournament last year.
“This team reminds me of the Avengers,” Coach Donzell Hayes said. “If they don’t do it together as a unit they won’t get the job done but when they play as a team, they can play with anyone out there.”
Senior Graham Alphson was the team’s high scorer in all four games, showing why he earned All-City honors last winter. He had 25 points in the finale against Maranatha, but it was his 28-point effort in last Thursday’s 70-60 opening-round victory over Providence that set the tone for his team.
“I wasn’t happy with my last game [at Beverly Hills], but I’ve practiced a lot at the park since,” Alphson said. “It’s more of a mental thing. You have to respect every opponent or they’ll beat you.”
Palisades played its best game of the season in the quarterfinals, upsetting Taft—a team projected to make the City Open Division—by 10 points behind Alphson’s 18 points and 13 from Anthony Spencer.
“It’s all about following the gameplan,” said Spencer, who had 19 points on seven shots, including five 3-pointers, against Maranatha. “It’s about maintaining an even keel through the highs and lows.”
After being outscored by 18 points in the second half of a 78-64 semifinal loss to Alemany, the Dolphins got 15 points from Caden Arnold and 13 from Sheldon Zanders to take down Maranatha.
“Beating Taft is big,” said Zanders, who had 11 points against the Toreadors. “We have to win as many of them as we can if we want to be an Open team. The key is to play at our pace, not theirs.”