The trouble with starting a basketball tournament the day after Christmas is that some players perform as if they ate too much turkey the day before.
On the first day of the 10th annual Palisades-Malibu Holiday tournament at Pepperdine's Firestone Fieldhouse, some players seemed to be shooting drumsticks when they were trying--without much success--to make baskets. Others were committing unusual errors, caused, perhaps, by the holiday respite from practice or by the flu bug that was going around.
Also on opening day, the crowds could hardly be called that. For each of the four games, people in the stands seemed to be limited to a few parents and some of the players' girlfriends.
People connected with the tournament said that attendance was better at the night games on the second day but was not as good as in the past, partly because Christmas this year came in the middle of the week.
Close at the Half
In the third game on the tourney's opening day, the Granada Hills Kennedy High School and Thousand Oaks teams were missing the basket more often than they were hitting it in the first half, and Kennedy led, 27-21, at the end of the second quarter.
But Yutaka Shimizu, the Kennedy coach and former Hamilton mentor, went to a zone press in the second half that rattled Thousand Oaks players and forced them into a flock of turnovers. Shimizu's players started making uncontested layups--after missing a bunch of not-very-strongly contested ones in the early going--and the Cougars raced to a 70-49 win.
At one point, a Thousand Oaks player made an unusual mistake. Trying to pass the ball in-bounds under the Kennedy basket against the pressing Cougars, the confused Lancer hit the backboard, and the ball went over to Kennedy.
But the Lancers weren't the only ones confused. After Thousand Oaks also went to a press and Kennedy had seemingly broken it by throwing a length-of-the-court pass to an open man under the basket for an easy layup, the basket didn't count.
Those Things Happen
Right before the pass, a Kennedy player had called a timeout.
"You've got to expect those things to happen during the holidays," Shimizu said. "You hope it doesn't happen, but you've got to be ready for it."
Palisades High Coach Jerry Marvin, whose school sponsors the tournament with the Malibu Rotary Club, may not have been ready for the prospect of not having two of his best players--6-10 Derek Strong and 6-7 Victor Malbrough--show up for the 10:30 a.m. opener against strong Oxnard Rio Mesa.
Marvin was anxiously looking around for his two big men just before players took the court for the pregame shoot-around. Strong and Malbrough arrived a few minutes before the tip-off, were a little slow getting untracked, and Palisades trailed at halftime, 25-24.
But the tardy pair made key baskets in the second half and Palisades held on for a 65-58 win. Strong wound up with a team-high 17 points, and Malbrough added 14.
Culver Triumphed Again
In the first day's other games, nifty forward Sean Davis of Woodland Hills El Camino Real scored 33 points in an 80-59 win over outmanned Hamilton, and Marvin Nelson scored 20 and teammate John Jones added 14 to pace then-unbeaten Culver City to its 12th straight win, a 79-61 defeat of Lincoln.
Davis, Nelson and Jones showed little sign of holiday rustiness or illness, and Jones was the key man in the Centaurs' victory.
For a guy who plays the middle, the 6-4 Jones sure was in a lot of other places. Against Lincoln, he made key steals and deflected passes, blocked shots and rebounded strongly. He would rebound, make the outlet pass on a fast break and then trail the break, scoring once.
That day, at least, Jones played as if he invented aggressiveness. But the next day his invention turned on him.
Against the Kennedy press, Jones and his teammates were not as effective as against Lincoln. Jones fouled out in the fourth quarter, and the Centaurs lost their first game of the season, 78-68. Culver also lost Saturday's third-place game to El Camino Real, 67-65, and Jones scored only 8 points.
Tardy Players Produce
In Saturday's consolation final, Rio Mesa, which reached the final with a win over Hamilton, defeated Thousand Oaks, 56-45, after Thousand Oaks had advanced by beating Lincoln.
Strong and Malbrough, the tardy stars of Palisades' opening win, were punctual and alert for their team's second-round game, a 76-47 rout of El Camino Real. Strong lived up to his name, hauling down 16 rebounds, scoring 13 points and blocking a couple of shots, and Malbrough scored 22 points on 11 of 13 shooting.
In the championship game, the Palisades big men weren't needed as much as in the first two games. Kennedy gave the Dolphins a stiff fight for two quarters, trailing at the half, 26-21. But Strong dominated the boards and scored 10 points, and Malbrough added eight points in the first half to keep the pressure on Kennedy.