Comeback Isn’t Enough for Palisades


The Palisades High girls’ basketball team waged a comeback Saturday night that might rank as one of the greatest in the history of a tournament that began in 1981.

Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they ultimately came up just short.

Palisades overcame a seven-point deficit in the final 90 seconds but lost to San Jose Archbishop Mitty, 49-48, in the Division I state championship game at Arco Arena.


Mitty, ranked No. 1 in the state, finished 31-0. The Monarchs are the first girls’ team to complete a season undefeated since Atherton Sacred Heart Prep in 1995.

And Mitty was tested to the very end by a Palisades team that refused to quit despite trailing, 47-40, with 1:30 left.

“[Palisades] didn’t get to the state finals by rolling over in close games,” Mitty Coach Sue Phillips-Chargin said.

Senior guard Leilani Estavan gave Palisades its first lead at 48-47 on a twisting layup with 22 seconds left.

Mitty broke the Dolphins’ press and regained the lead when guard Aimee Grzyb drove the lane and passed to forward Domenica Curran, who banked in a short jumper with nine seconds left for her only points of the game.

Palisades did not take a timeout. Instead, the Dolphins pushed the ball up the court and April Freeney put up a 25-footer under pressure. The ball failed to hit the rim, but Palisades guard Itricia Ewells caught it just to the left of the basket.

Ewells managed to get a shot off before time expired, but the ball rolled around the rim before falling off to end the game--and Palisades’ hopes of winning its first state title.

The Dolphins, who won their first City Section and Southern California regional championships this season, did not have to look at the final statistics to know that they had played an atypically poor game. Palisades (29-5) committed 29 turnovers and missed numerous layups.

“We didn’t play well tonight,” said Palisades forward Nicole Funn, who scored 14 points and had 15 rebounds before fouling out with 3:11 left and the Dolphins trailing, 42-40. “This was not the night to not play well.”

Funn made four of 11 shots, Estavan three of 11 and Freeney two of 13. Palisades made 14 of 27 free throws.

Still, the Dolphins put themselves into position for a victory with their stirring rally.

Freeney made two free throws and Ewells’ basket with 1:17 left pulled the Dolphins to within 47-44.

After a Mitty turnover, Freeney made another shot to cut the lead to one with 59 seconds left.

Ewells made a steal on the ensuing possession and passed to Estavan, who drove the length of the court and finished her drive with the acrobatic layup that left Palisades 22 seconds from victory.

Mitty then displayed the poise that helped make the Monarchs state champions.

All five Mitty players touched the ball as the Monarchs moved it up court for what turned out to be Curran’s game-winning basket.

“We do a lot of situations in practice,” guard Kerri Nakamota said. “You just have to keep your composure.”

Mitty junior Rometra Craig, the daughter of former NFL running back Roger Craig, scored a game-high 19 points and had eight rebounds and five steals.