Before the game, Westchester head coach Ed Azzam joked with James Paleno, his counterpart at Palisades about which Dolphins team would show up. Was it the one that beat Fairfax by 25 on earlier this week or the squad that struggle to get by Venice.
It only took a couple of minutes to figure out it was the later.
Westchester scored the first 16 points of the game and held Palisades to only four first quarter points in a dominating 65-42 victory to remain undefeated in Western League play.
Guard Matthew Grant had 13 points as 12 different Comets scored in the game, but it was the defensive effort that most impressed their head coach.
“Our defense today was excellent, especially in the half-court. I was really pleased,” said Azzam.
Westchester held Palisades scoreless until Louis Kurihara’s layup at the 2:53 mark in the first quarter and unlike their last meeting, the Comets (21-5, 9-0) got off to a fast start to take to lead 23-4 at the end of the period.
The defense held Palisades’ leading scorer Ammar Rehman, who averages 15.5 points a game, was without a single point in the first three quarters of play and he finished with seven points.
“He is a spot up shooter and we always had a hand in his face. We did not allow him to get going,” said Azzam.
Despite the lack of height, the Comets controlled the boards with aggressive play. They grabbed 18 offensive rebounds leading to 12 second-chance points.
“We were excited, because they beat Fairfax by 25 and they were going to come out with a lot of energy. We make to make sure we matched that,” said Grant.
Then did that for most of the first half until foul trouble sent Palisades to the free throw line.
Dakota Chambers scored eight of his 12 points in the second quarter as the Dolphins rallied back to cut the lead down to 13 at halftime. They closed out the first half on a 14-5 run almost exclusively at the charity strip, making nine shots.
Then Westchester defense took over again.
Darrell Brown’s basket to start the third quarter sparked a 9-1 run to push their lead back up to 20. Palisades was only able to cut the lead below that mark once for the rest of the contest.
That kind of effort did not please Paleno.
“We just came in and weren’t ready to play,” said Paleno. “We cut the lead down to 13 at halftime and I though our inside game was good. Then at the start of the second half we did not score for a five-minute span again.”
Palisades (17-8, 7-2) had little help on the offensive end. The team only made ten field goals and beside Chambers and Rehman, no other player had more than five points.
The victory gives Westchester the inside track for another Western League title as they hold two game lead over both Palisades and Fairfax heading into the final week of conference play.
Westchester’s Tyler Batiste and Kevin Rutledge had eight points.
Kurihara, Ryan Ford, and Aaron Johnson had five points for Palisades