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Pinewood prevails in NorCal opener

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier File Photo
Pinewood School’s Courtni Thompson, dribbling, scored a career-high 27 points in Tuesday’s win over Granite Bay in the first round of the Northern California Division I playoffs.

UPDATE: Pinewood edged Miramonte 49-47 Thursday and is slated to play at Salesian 5 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals.

Granite Bay wouldn’t go away. Trailing the Pinewood School girls basketball team by 15 points early in the second half of Tuesday’s Northern California Division I playoff opener, the visiting Grizzlies cut the deficit to six early in the fourth quarter and were down seven with just under three minutes left.

But guard Courtni Thompson made sure the comeback ended there, burying a 3-pointer that sealed the Panthers’ 66-59 victory. The junior’s trey from the right baseline put her team up 10 with 1:15 remaining, after which Granite Bay made three free throws and Pinewood went 0-for-3 from the foul line.

“That was huge,” Panthers coach Doc Scheppler said of the dagger 3 by Thompson, who was 5-for-9 from beyond the arc. “Big shot.”

Thompson finished with a game-high 27 points, a career best. She scored 17 of those points after halftime.

“Courtni was fabulous tonight,” Scheppler said. “That was her best game as a Pinewood player, and goodness knows we needed it.”

Thompson accounted for 11 of Pinewood’s 18 points in the third quarter, starting with a layin off a bounce pass from center Maia Garcia. The play gave the fifth-seeded Panthers their biggest lead, 43-28, with 6:49 remaining in the period.

The No. 12 Grizzlies clawed their way back into the game by quarter’s end, however, closing the gap to 56-49 on Julia Riley’s 3-pointer. The Panthers’ lead shrank by another point when Bri Lambey – who led Granite Bay with 25 points – split free throws with 7:19 left in the fourth.

“Anytime we got a little bit of separation, they got right back in it,” Scheppler said.

Pinewood responded by scoring the next seven points to regain control. The run featured a pair of corner 3s – the first from Una Jovanovic and the second by Thompson. Jovanovic totaled 15 points for the Panthers (24-4 overall).

But the Grizzlies (20-10) roared back once again, scoring six straight points to make it 63-56 with 2:57 to go. After missing its next four shots, Pinewood extended the lead to double digits on Thompson’s clutch 3.

Lambey tried to answer with a 3 of her own, but it was off the mark. The senior didn’t make another shot from the field after tormenting the Panthers for most of the night. Lambey put up 12 points in a fast-paced first quarter that ended with Pinewood up 20-17 and she had 17 points by intermission.

“Man, their No. 5 was on fire,” Scheppler said of Lambey. “Looking at her shot, I didn’t believe that she could shoot that well.”

On the other side, the Grizzlies were probably surprised by the shooting of Pinewood’s Chance Bucher. The junior came off the bench to nail a trio of 3s in the first half and finished with nine points, one shy of her season high.

“Chance did a great job off the bench,” Scheppler said. “She’s a great shooter – we see that all the time in practice – but she’s never been able to really apply that to games, so it was really good to see her hit shots like that.”

Valentina Saric added 10 points that included two 3s. The sophomore also grabbed eight rebounds, tying point guard Annika Decker for team-high honors.

Pinewood travels to Orinda Thursday to take on No. 4 Miramonte (23-5) in a quarterfinal game set to tip off at 7 p.m. The winner advances to Saturday night’s semifinals against top-seeded Salisian (26-4) or No. 9 San Ramon Valley (27-4).

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