Photo By: Town Crier file photo
Pinewood guard Marissa Hing, driving to the basket in a early-round NorCal game, scored 17 points in Saturday’s final.
The Pinewood School girls basketball team may be known for its 3-point shooting, but the Panthers are proving they can win when those long-range shots aren’t falling.
Pinewood struggled to make 3s in the Northern California Division V semifinals and final last week, yet the Panthers won both games to advance to Friday’s state championship contest.
Pinewood beat Eastside Prep 48-36 in Saturday’s NorCal final at American Canyon High, despite making just five of its 23 3-point shots (21.7 percent). That follows a 37-30 win at Valley Christian-Dublin March 12 in which the third-seeded Panthers connected on only four of 27 shots from beyond the arc (14.8 percent).
“We’re finding a way to win,” coach Doc Scheppler said.
The Panthers (24-7) are clamping down on defense and scoring most of their points on drives and from the foul line. Pinewood sank 25 of its 29 free throws in Saturday’s win against top seed Eastside. That’s the most foul shots the Panthers have taken – and converted – all season.
“We got to the basket and made free throws at the end of the game,” Scheppler said. “Ten of them were in the last three minutes.”
Eastside (23-9) desperately fouled in the fourth to stop the clock but could not catch the Panthers. Pinewood never trailed, leading 21-13 at halftime and 34-16 entering the final quarter.
“We made the right plays early in the game to get comfortable in our surroundings,” Scheppler said. “We got off to a good start and into a flow, which we didn’t do in our past games against them.”
Pinewood entered the NorCal final 0-3 against Eastside this season (the teams both play in the West Bay Athletic League), losing each game by at least 13 points.
“This game we did things differently,” Scheppler said. “We tried a different defense and brought new sets and plays into the mix.”
Forward Leeana Bade paced the Panthers with 18 points – highlighted by a long 3-pointer in the second half that hit nothing but net as the shot clock expired – and guard Marissa Hing added 17.
Pinewood is slated to face Southern California champ Sierra Canyon in the state final 10 a.m. Friday at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena. Scheppler – who has led the Panthers to five state titles in six tries – considers the Trailblazers (26-9) a worthy adversary.
“They’re a really good team,” he said. “We’ve got our hands full.”