Top 10 Stories of the Year

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

As we embark on another exciting year of sports in Pacific Palisades there are many memorable plays, record-breaking achievements and storybook endings to look forward to. Before we do so, however, let’s take a quick look back at the highlights of the past 12 months. Here is a countdown of the Palisadian-Post’s Top 10 sports stories in 2019…

Calvary Flag Football Claims PBL Championship

#10. Calvary Christian players celebrate after rallying to beat crosstown rival St. Matthew’s for the Pacific Basin League 6th-grade flag football crown in November.

Neighborhood bragging rights were at stake when Calvary Christian took on St. Matthew’s for the Pacific Basin League’s 6th-grade flag football championship and early on it did not look good for the Cougars. They fell behind 20-0 at halftime but stormed back to win, 21-20, on touchdowns by Matthew O’Connor, Curran Pendergraft and Jack Redmon. The Cougars had defeated St. Matthew’s 18-6 earlier in the season and beat its other crosstown rival Corpus Christi in nonleague play.

Pinto, Mustang Sox and Bronco Birds Win PPBA 

#9. Orioles players celebrate moments after defeating the Dodgers 7-2 to capture the PPBA Bronco Division championship in June at the Rec Center’s Field of Dreams.

There was plenty of drama on the diamonds at the Field of Dreams for the Pacific Palisades

Baseball Association’s three championship series in June. The Pinto Division came down to the Red Sox and Cardinals and Coach Dave Ludwig’s Sox won 10-4. In the Mustang Division, Coach Kevin Monaco’s Red Sox won the decisive game against the Dodgers, 12-7.  In the Bronco Division, Coach Matt Dorband’s Orioles swept the championship series versus the Dodgers, winning 17-6 and 7-2.

#8. Pali High outside hitter Akhil Tangutur (facing) spikes in the City Open Division boys volleyball final against El Camino Real, which the Dolphins won in four sets.

Pali High Volleyball Powers to Third Straight Title

Palisades High’s volleyball program has a proud history and has produced some of the most dominant teams in City Section annals, but the boys squad made its mark as perhaps the best ever in the spring, breaking the school single-season record for victories (42 wins in 45 matches), capturing its third straight Open Division title and advancing to the semifinals of the Southern California Regional playoffs. Coach Carlos Gray even declared these Dolphins “the best team I have ever coached.”

Pros Put on a Show at First Riviera Tennis Classic 

#7. Venus Williams was one of several professional players who highlighted the inaugural “Riviera Tennis Classic” fundraiser in March, which raised $50,000.

Tennis stars Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Venus Williams and Monica Puig answered questions from Tennis Channel commentator Paul Annacone at a VIP reception in the clubhouse, then took to the Riviera courts where ticketholders exchanged volleys, groundstrokes and verbal jabs with all five champions. When the last ball was struck, everyone was a winner and a check in the amount of $50,000 was presented to the American Red Cross and the L.A.Firefighters Foundation.

#6. Pali High football coach Tim Hyde hugs receiver Max Palees after the Dolphins clinched the Western League championship with a 21-7 triumph over Fairfax.

Pali High Football Finishes Undefeated in League

It had been 32 years since the Palisades High football team had finished undefeated in league, but the Dolphins accomplished that feat in November, beating Westchester, Venice, University, Hamilton and Fairfax to claim the Western League title. The Dolphins won nine straight games—their longest streak since the 1970s—and made the City Section Open Division playoffs for the second straight year. They won the Charter Bowl   with Granada Hills and “Sunset Showdown” versus Brentwood.

#5. Palisadian and former Marymount High soccer star Natalie Gigg wins the 5K women’s race in 18:39 at the Palisades Will Rogers Race on the Fourth of July.

Palisadian Natalie Gigg Wins Will Rogers 5K Race

Two Natalies battled for the women’s 5K crown for the second year in a row at the Palisades Will Rogers Run and this time Palisadian Natalie Gigg beat former Pali High runner Natalie Marsh. A lifelong Palisadian, Gigg clocked 18:39 to win her hometown race for the first time on the Fourth of July. Tonny Okello was trying to become the first man to win the 10K six times but finished second to Cosmo Brossy, a 22-year-old from Los Angeles, who broke the tape in 34:18. Okello was second.

#4. Genesis Open host Tiger Woods (left) congratulates champion J.B. Holmes, whose final-round 70 beat Justin Thomas by one stroke at Riviera Country Club.

J.B. Holmes Is One Stroke Better at Genesis Open

He began his final round four strokes behind leader Justin Thomas, but golfer J.B. Holmes kept plugging away, the winds picked up and by tournament’s end his 1-under par 70 was enough to win the Genesis Open by one stroke in February at Riviera Country Club. Holmes almly drained a two-foot par putt on the 18th hole to finish at -14 and claim his fifth career PGA Tour victory and first since the Shell Houston Open in 2015.

#3. Pali High’s Shayne Larimer, Nnamdi Onwaoze, Kenny Davis and Nick Mendez took second in the 4×400 relay to clinch the Dolphins’ first City boys track title.

Pali High Boys Track Team Earns First City Crown

It came down to the final event at the City Section track and field finals in June at El Camino College. Palisades’ Kenny Davis, Nick Mendez, Nnamdi Onwaoze and Shayne Larimer clocked 3:24.97 for second place in the 4×400 relay and it was enough to secure the Dolphins’ first boys title by one-half point over Granada Hills. Devin Fry won the high jump, Onwaoze won the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles and Davis was second in the long jump.   

Pali High Baseball Makes Final at Dodger Stadium

#1. Pali High basketball players celebrate after beating Carson in overtime to win the City Division I championship in their first season under Coach Adam Levine.

Although its journey ended with a 9-5 defeat to Birmingham at Dodger Stadium, the Palisades High baseball team enjoyed a remarkable season, winning 26 of 33 games—including an 11-game winning streak from March 1 to April 6—and finished a perfect 12-0 in Western League play. The Dolphins blanked Granada Hills 2-0 and El Camino Real 1-0 in the Open Division playoffs to earn their first trip to the City’s upper division final since 1989 and rallied from five runs down to tie before Birmingham pulled away.    

Pali High Girls Basketball Wins City Division I Title

#1. Pali High basketball players celebrate after beating Carson in overtime to win the City Division I championship in their first season under Coach Adam Levine.

What a turnaround it was for the Palisades High girls basketball team. One year after finishing last in league and missing the playoffs, the Dolphins won 26 games—third most in programhistory—won the City Division I title and came within seconds of reaching the Division III state final under first-year coach Adam Levine. In the City final against Carson, Rose Morris made a  game-tying three-pointer with 10 seconds left in regulation and the Dolphins went on to win 57-54 for their sixth City championship.