LA North and LA South: Taft 78, Palisades 59

LOS ANGELES -- At times, Spencer Dinwiddie makes playing the game of basketball appear to be so effortless that the casual observer might not realize how many things he does well.

Such was the case Friday night in a City Section playoff game. The senior point guard from Woodland Hills Taft High nearly had a triple-double in a 78-59 semifinal victory over Palisades at Galen Center, finishing with 20 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and four steals to boot.

“I felt good out there, I had everything working,'' said Dinwiddie, who will attend Colorado next season. “My job is to keep everyone involved and get mine when I can, I think I did that tonight.''

With the victory over the fifth-seeded Dolphins (18-13), the top-seeded Toreadors (26-2) move on and advance to next week's finals against Westchester, a 67-58 winner over Washington in the other semifinal.

“Spencer did a good job running things, but that' something we expect from him on a nightly basis,'' Taft coach Derrick Taylor said. “When he's active, we like out chances.''

Make no mistake, Dinwiddie had plenty of help along the way.

Khiry Williams scored a career-high 20 points for the Toreadors, Kevin Johnson added 11 points and 11 rebounds and C.J. Blackwell chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds.

Johnson and Blackwell are expected to put up good numbers. Williams, on the other hand, is a bit of a wild card. The added scoring punch he provided proved to be invaluable.

“I went out there and showed everyone what I can do,'' Williams said. “I might not have the big name like some of the other guys on our team, but if you underestimate me, I'll give you the blues. This was a big stage, the playoff semifinals, but for me, it was like playing in my backyard.''

The Dolphins did their best to keep things close. But each and every time they got close, the Toreadors put distance between the two teams. For example, Dinwiddie, Johnson, Blackwell and Williams made consecutive baskets to extend the lead to 67-55 with 2:11 left.

Trailing by 11 points at halftime, Palisades attempted a rally in the second half. And the Dolphins did manage to cut the deficit down to seven points after Ilya Ilyayev and Everett Osborne made back-to-back baskets with 6:45 remaining in the third quarter player of play.

The momentum didn't last though, not after the Dolphins' bench was assessed a technical foul a couple of minutes later. Accordingly, the Toreadors went on a run.

Blackwell hit a three-pointer and Dinwiddie added a layup. All of a sudden, the Taft lead ballooned to 50-34 with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter

Williams scored six consecutive points in the second quarter, on layups, to give the Toreadors what appeared to be a comfortable 30-16 lead with 4:45 left in the first half.

Palisades struggled throughout and did not make its first field goal of the second quarter until there was 2:27 left on the clock. Brenden Otero hit a jumper from the top of the key.

It was one of those nights for the Dolphins, unfortunately. They had trouble doing things right and Dinwiddie & Co. could seemingly do wrong.