Playoff Preview: Palos Verdes Eyes Another L.A. Title

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16 West Ranch (11-7) at 1 Palos Verdes (13-5), 3:30 p.m.

Rizal Smith, Aidan Westley, Palos Verdes

After a 1-4 start, West Ranch has won 10 of 13 games, including Monday’s 13-12 playoff win at Sierra Canyon. And two of the Wildcats’ losses in that stretch were to playoff teams Crespi and Chaminade. Still, West Ranch flew under the radar, not even making our “Who’s on the bubble?” analysis April 25. But the Wildcats finished with three more victories and earned their second consecutive playoff berth. After beating Sierra Canyon, avenging an overtime loss to the Trailblazers in their season-opener, they travel to Palos Verdes to take on the No. 1 Sea Kings.

Palos Verdes opened the season No. 1 in the US Lacrosse/MaxLaxLA coaches poll and finished the regular season in the same spot. The Sea Kings boast a roster with a handful of players at both ends of the field who are headed for NCAA Division I programs, but the hallmark of this year’s team has been its defense. With senior goalie D McCann (Duke), junior defender Shane Sharp (Lafayette) and junior LSM/D Jarrett Jones (Georgetown), the Sea Kings have held opponents to 7 goals per game while playing the toughest schedule of any L.A. team.

Offensively, senior middie Stanton Gilbertson (Hobart) leads the way with 51 goals, and juniors Aidan Westley (40g, 18a) and Rizal Smith (25g, 20a) join sophomore Jack Larkin (24g, 16a) as 40-point scorers. Junior Peter Henkhaus (Marquette) has missed the entire season with a broken collarbone.

The winner of this game advances to meet the winner of Newbury Park-Oak Park on Thursday.