Taking Aim

Palisades High Boys Basketball Struggles in Rose City Round Ball Classic at Maranatha

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That was the mantra of the Palisades High boys basketball team throughout last week’s Rose City Round Ball Classic at Maranatha High in Pasadena.

Eight players graduated from last season’s City Section Division I semifinal squad and the Dolphins’ youth showed in losses to Alemany, Blair, Rowville (Australia) and Carnegie of Riverside—the last three of which were decided by four points or less.

Senior Cole Jacobs had the hot hand in the Dolphins’ opener, scoring 19 points in a 74-47 defeat to Alemany last Wednesday. The next night he added 10 points in a 67-64 loss to Blair—a rematch of last year’s Division IV state playoff opener which the Vikings won 55-53.

Cole Jacobs makes a layup in Palisades’ 67-64 loss to Blair in the second round of the Rose City Classic.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

Palisades trailed by only one point at halftime thanks to sophomore guard Anthony Spencer, who finished with a team-best 14 points, and junior captain Nick Kerkorian added 11. Will Janney, who earned All-League honors at safety for the football team, scored 10 points while Graham Alphson and Avi Massaband each added six.

“Obviously, we lost a lot of guys from last year but Coach [Donzell] Hayes does a great job putting guys in the right positions,” said Spencer, whose mentors include his older brother Michael (now at UC Berkeley) and neighbor and former Pali High guard Will Johnson (now at Oregon). “It definitely helped getting on the floor and seeing which combinations work. These first few games are like an x-ray. We need to see what’s broken so we can fix it. The biggest things are to practice hard, be relaxed and trust what you can do.”

Blair used a 12-0 run to take a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter but Spencer’s three-pointer from 30 feet out trimmed the final margin to three with less than one second remaining on the clock.

“Those first four were all games we could’ve won,” Kerkorian said. “Like Coach Hayes says, we don’t lose—we learn. Sometimes it takes awhile to find your identity and we’re in that transition period.”

Graham Alphson jumps high for a rebound against St. Monica. He scored six points in the Dolphins’ first win.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

After an intense practice Saturday, Palisades was back on the court Monday for its first pool play game of the Jim Nakabara Classic at University High.

Desperate to get in the win column, the Dolphins dominated from the opening tip-off, racing to a 19-11 lead after one quarter and widening the gap to 37-17 at halftime en route to a 70-32 blowout.

“We came out with energy from the jump,” said sophomore forward Keyshawn Parks, who set up numerous baskets with hustle and pinpoint passing. “It was fun! We played hard and didn’t wait for four minutes to get going. We just have to talk more on defense and we’ll be fine. Most of us have never played together but we’re becoming more familiar with each other every day. Now we have to get a winning streak going. We don’t care who we play.”

Kevin Eng scores off a turnover in Palisades’ win against St. Monica in pool play at the University Tournament.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

Sophomore guard Teddy Suisman led the way against the overmatched Mariners (0-5), scoring 20 points, Jacobs added 12 points on four three-pointers, Kerkorian had 11 and Janney had eight.

Palisades played Notre Dame on Tuesday and wrapped up pool play yesterday against Verdugo Hills. The other pool consists of host University, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Marshall. The seventh-place game is Friday at 3 p.m., the fifth-place game is at 4:30, the third-place game is at 6 and the championship game tips off at 7:30.

Will Janney soars to the rim for a layup for two of his eight points in Monday’s 70-32 victory over St. Monica.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

The Dolphins lost to University 80-76 in the final last season but rebounded to beat the Wildcats twice in Western League play.

“This was definitely an important one to get,” Kerkorian said of the team’s first win. We picked the press up, used the trap, spaced the floor  and crashed the boards. We got more drives from our guards. Everyone really wanted it and that showed. We still need to be more efficient, but this is a positive step for sure.”

Hayes identified the Dolphins’ most glaring weakness in Pasadena as transition defense and addressed it at Saturday’s practice. He realizes his team is a work in progress and he believes effort is most important.

“Everything starts with effort—you have to have that from everybody to be competitive. We’re young and long. We have a deep team, it’s just raw and there’s going to be a learning curve when you have so many sophomores on varsity. We have to keep building and getting better. All five returners know who I am and what we’re about, they just have to preach the message to the 10 new guys. My system is to teach them the game so they don’t need me. Everyone is better in our league.  All seven teams were among the top 15 in the City last season—that’s amazing. Every game is going to be a battle and we have to be ready.”