Pali High Hoops Tops Brentwood, Poway and San Marcos to Make Regional Final
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Every team wants to be playing its best at the end of the season and Palisades High’s girls basketball squad seemingly peaked at just the right time.
Despite being seeded sixth in the Southern California Regional Division III playoffs the Dolphins entered the tournament confident they could make a deep run. Three wins later they found themselves a win away from the state finals.
“I knew from the jump that we had a great chance—we never gave up and never give in,” junior guard Hayley Amador said after Saturday’s 59-48 triumph over San Marcos—Palisades’ second trek to San Diego in three days. “The long road trips and team dinners brought us all closer together. We trust each other.”
Palisades jumped ahead 21-8 in the first eight minutes and led by 17 points entering the fourth quarter. The Knights cut their deficit to eight with under one minute left, but Sammie Arnold made a free throw and a layup off an inbounds pass to put the game out of reach. Nine Dolphins scored, led by Arnold’s 13 points, 10 by freshman center Janelly Portillo, eight apiece from Jane Nwaba and Demoni Lagway, seven by Sofia Canter and six by Alexis Pettis.
“Palisades played hard, smart and together,” San Marcos Coach Roger DiCarlo said. “They found a way to beat Carson in the City final after trailing the whole game. I knew they would be tough. They answered every run we made.”
Last Thursday the Dolphins traveled to third-seeded Poway for the regional quarterfinals and found themselves in a tight struggle before surviving, 41-38. Arnold’s putback with 40 seconds left put the Dolphins up 40-38 and she added a free throw 20 seconds later that closed out the scoring.
“I wasn’t sure how we would do at first but as time went by we really bonded,” said Nwaba, who led the Dolphins with 19 points. “We’re just having fun on the bus, eating together, playing together. We want to win for each other.”
Palisades began regional play at home last Tuesday in the Sunset Showdown versus Brentwood and prevailed 59-55—a bittersweet win for Coach Adam Levine, who was an assistant for three years under Eagles Coach Charles Solomon, his good friend and mentor.
Nwaba was unstoppable with 28 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. Palisadian Sammy Wadler scored 15 points for Brentwood.
Palisades faced McFarland on Tuesday and the winner plays Oakland or Union Mine for the state title at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.