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Highlanders Fall to Palisades Again

Boys' tennis: Granada Hills frustrated by dominant Dolphins in City individual finals.


STUDIO CITY — Deepu Murthy of Granada Hills High was dripping with sweat after he and partner Steve Ishoo lost in straight sets to a team from Palisades on Friday in the City Section doubles final.

Murthy looked miserable. He was battling a cold, having tossed and turned in bed the night before.

And after Adam Pennella and Jung Cho claimed their second consecutive title, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), at the Racquet Centre, Murthy couldn't hide his disappointment.

"We're sick of Pali winning," Murthy said.

He cracked a weak smile and chuckled, hoping to soften his words. Ishoo, standing at his side, also snickered.

But Murthy's words reflected the mood among the also-rans.

Palisades ran the table in the individual tournament.

Danny Westerman beat Artin Tafazoli, 6-3, 6-2, in an all-Palisades singles final.

Palisades' Kevin Suh and Blake Baumgarten beat Granada Hills' Evan Press and Matt Weiss, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), in the third-place doubles match.

If that wasn't enough, Palisades recently captured its third consecutive 4-A Division team championship, beating Granada Hills in the final after defeating the Highlanders in the 1996 semifinals.

"We weren't overconfident, that's for sure," Murthy said. "We knew we had to play our best tennis today to win."

Second-seeded Murthy and Ishoo failed to capitalize on five break points in the first set against the top-seeded team. After leading, 5-3, in the second set and missing two chances to win it, Murthy and Ishoo were sent packing.

Murthy and Ishoo, both juniors, had the momentum for most of the second set. But with Murthy serving at 5-3, Pennella hit a forehand down the middle on game point to make it 5-4. Then Cho held his serve, and it was 5-5.

Pennella took over from there. Trailing, 6-5, and serving at 30-40, he hit consecutive forehand winners from the baseline and the net to force a tiebreaker. (There was no ad scoring in the playoffs).

Murthy and Ishoo opened a 2-0 lead in the tiebreaker, but Cho, a junior, and Pennella, a senior, came through with a flurry of volleys to win six points in a row and lead, 6-2. Pennella hit five winners in that spree.

Murthy countered with consecutive forehand and backhand winners, and Cho erred on a forehand to make it 6-5. But with Granada Hills threatening, Pennella smashed Ishoo's lob for the final point.

"I don't think Pennella was that much of a factor," Ishoo said. "Jung at the net just intimidated us."

But it was Pennella who won the final eight points for the Dolphins, riding the Palisades tide.

"I just kept rising," Pennella said, "and it came full force in the tiebreaker."

Pennella and Cho finished 19-1 in match play and 12-0 in sets during the round-robin team championships. Ishoo and Murthy finished 12-1 in match play and 5-1 in sets. They spent most of the season playing singles.

Birmingham senior Anthony Gabriele finished fourth in singles, losing his consolation match to Andy Roland of Hollywood, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4.

Second-seeded Gabriele took a 25-0 record into the semifinals before losing the final two matches of his high-school career. He finished with a career record of 81-10.

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