There was more than just a rivalry hanging in the balance when the Palos Verdes and Peninsula boys volleyball teams squared off Tuesday afternoon in the regular season finale.
A PV victory ensured the Sea Kings a third-place finish in the Bay League, while a Peninsula win would force a third-place playoff game Wednesday.
All signs pointed to the latter. Peninsula came out hot and took the first game before PV stormed back to take the next three, handing the Panthers a 22-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-17 defeat at Peninsula High.
"We definitely didn't expect Peninsula to come out like that, but we had to reset our minds and get the job done," PV's Max Kelly said.
Peninsula (18-13, 2-6) jumped out to an early 9-2 lead, taking advantage of a few early Sea King errors.
The Panthers led 12-3 following John Skoblar's kill, but a PV timeout helped the Sea Kings reset. From that point, PV closed the game on a 19-13 run that would swing the momentum of the entire afternoon.
"We executed our game plan, and that was obvious in the first game," Peninsula coach Kevin Williams said. "We were ready, but we just weren't consistent. PV was on their game, and they played well. They brought the intensity."
Peninsula stayed close in the second game, keeping its deficit within three until PV began to pull away.
Akin Akimwumi's kill made it a 12-9 game before PV (18-13, 4-4) reeled off points on seven of the next eight possessions to take an 18-11 advantage. Akinwumi finished with 18 digs, 11 kilss and four assists while Skoblar added nine kills.
"We didn't panic (after losing the first game) and we stuck to our game plan," PV coach Patrick Lynch said. "They dug themselves into a little hole and kept fighting. I'm proud of their composure."
Max Kelly's ace gave PV game-point in the second before Lawrence's quick kill tied the match at 1 game each. Lawrence finished with 11 kills and five digs while Kelly had with nine kills.
The common theme for the day was Peninsula's inability to clean up its errors. In the pivotal third game, the Panthers committed 13 unforced errors, including one to seal the game.
"When we have fun, we play well," said Peninsula's Clarke Godbold, who finished with 16 digs and 14 kills. "When we lose our focus, we play really bad like we did (Tuesday)."
Tied at 13 in the fourth game, it was the play of Kelly and junior Kyle Cross that helped the Sea Kings pull away. Cross' kill gave PV a one-point lead, before Kelly's kill gave PV a 15-13 edge. Cross and Jack Good had five kills apiece, while Eric Yeich had 33 assists and six digs.
Peninsula stayed close, making it a 19-16 game on Ethan Colin's block. But the Panthers momentum was undone by its errors. Peninsula committed four unforced errors on the final seven points, including match-point to help PV seal the victory.
Now, the two rivals turn their attention toward the CIF Southern Section brackets, which are released Friday April 26 at 11 a.m.
PV was ranked No. 16 in CIF-SS Division 1/2 in the April 15 poll, while Peninsula was unranked in division 3.
PV knows that if its playing up to its potential, anything is possible.
"When this team is clicking, it's hard to stop us," Kelly said. "It may not always look pretty, but we have great chemistry. We're definitely something to watch."
After being on the outside looking in following last season's finish, Godbold and Peninsula are not holding their breath hopes of an at-large bid in CIF. (The top three teams in each league are guaranteed playoff spots).
"(Tuesday) was a really tough, and we didn't want our season to end this way," Godbold said. "We thought we could win in four, but we played sloppy. PV played really well today."