While the Pinewood School girls basketball team packed its defense for Saturday’s road game against Salesian in the Northern California Division I playoffs, the Panthers never found their shooting stroke.
No. 5 Pinewood struggled to make shots – particularly in the first half – leading to its demise in the semifinal. The top-seeded Pride prevailed 53-44 in Albany.
“Our defense was great – the girls were locked in, focused and followed the plan,” Panthers coach Doc Scheppler said. “But you’re not going to win many games shooting 1-for-10 from 3 and 3-for-10 from the free-throw line in the first half.”
Despite that, Pinewood led 21-19 at intermission on the strength of its fast start.
“We got up 9-2 and were comfortably getting our shots,” Scheppler said.
The Panthers (25-5 overall) had Salesian (28-4) in foul trouble by the second quarter, but they didn’t hit enough shots to pull away. Instead, the Pride outscored them 12-9.
“We didn’t create separation when they had four bench players and a starter in,” Scheppler said. “They’re good players, but we should have created more separation in the second quarter.”
Salesian made Pinewood pay for that in the second half. The Pride – which lost to the Panthers in the NorCal Open Division final a year ago – outscored them 13-8 in the third quarter.
Pinewood responded by scoring the first five points of the fourth to tie the contest at 37, and then the teams traded three-point plays to make it an even game again.
But just as the Panthers started to seize the momentum, Annika Decker twisted her ankle driving to the basket; Salesian’s Alexsandra Alvarado picked up the loose ball and went the other way for a layin.
Decker hobbled off the floor. When the point guard returned a minute later, Pinewood trailed 44-40 with 1:20 left. The Panthers never led again.
“The game turned on Annika’s turned ankle,” said Scheppler, who added that Decker would have likely missed Tuesday’s NorCal final had Pinewood advanced.
Decker finished with a team-high 15 points and Una Jovanovic added 13, eight of which came in the first half. Courtni Thompson contributed nine points. All three players shot under 30% from the field, however.
For the game, the Panthers connected on just 12 of 49 shots (24%), including a season-low 2-for-20 effort from 3-point range (10%).
Although Scheppler said he was proud of what Pinewood accomplished this season – his young team claimed another West Bay Athletic League crown, reached the Central Coast Section Open Division final and won two NorCal games – Saturday’s loss will take some time to get over.
“We were right there,” he said. “We played well but didn’t shoot our best – and we gave one away. All credit to our opponents, they won the game, but it was right in the palm of our hand.”
Pinewood is expected to return all five starters next season and graduates just one player.