With the starters struggling, Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler called on a freshman to spark his girls basketball team Thursday against visiting Scotts Valley.
Akayla Hackson responded by scoring a game-high 16 points in the Panthers’ 43-41 victory, which guaranteed them third place in the Central Coast Section Open Division. She made seven of her 12 shots, including a pair of deep 3s in the second quarter and two critical layins in the fourth.
“All I can say about the game positively was Akayla Hackson was awesome tonight,” Scheppler said. “We can win a game versus a good team playing poorly in all skillful facets – that shows we can grind it out.”
Fourth-seeded Pinewood suffered through one of its worst offensive performances of the season. The Panthers shot 32 percent from the field (16 of 50) and the 43 points was the team’s third-lowest output of the year. Pinewood committed 21 turnovers – its second-highest total of the year – and many of them were unforced.
Luckily for the Panthers (26-3), Scotts Valley shot even worse. The sixth-seeded Falcons made 12 of their 55 field-goal attempts (22 percent), firing up eight air balls and a few shots that tested the integrity of the backboard.
Even their biggest shot of the night wasn’t pretty. Nadene Hart banked in a 3 with six seconds to play, cutting Pinewood’s lead to two. Scotts Valley (24-5) got the ball back with 3.7 ticks to go, but Gabi Bade made a backcourt steal to preserve the win for Pinewood.
Scotts Valley mustered only four field goals by halftime, yet led 20-18. That’s because the Falcons took advantage of free throws (11 of 12) and Pinewood’s miscues (14 turnovers). The Panthers didn’t get even get to the foul line in the first half, and Scheppler made it known to the refs that he wasn’t happy about the disparity.
Pinewood’s top two scorers for the season didn’t produce a point in the half, but Hackson had 10. The guard was the lone Panther to finish with double-digit points.
Pinewood’s starters came alive in the third quarter, spurring a 7-0 run at the start. Bade and Chloe Eackles (eight points each) hit 3s and Monique McDevitt split two free throws at the 2:36 mark.
Pinewood’s 25-20 lead didn’t last long. Scotts Valley closed the quarter on a 7-2 spurt.
The Panthers broke the 27-all tie a minute into the fourth on standout point guard Marissa Hing’s first points of the game – a driving bank shot. The Falcons scored the next six points, which Eackles answered with a 3.
Hackson’s steal and layup put Pinewood up 38-35 with 2:16 left. After Scotts Valley tied it, Hing drained a 3 off a pass from Bade for a 41-38 lead with a minute to go. She sank two free throws with 14 seconds left to extend the edge.
Pinewood moves on to the Northern California Division V playoffs. The second-seeded Panthers are set to host No. 7 Valley Christian-Dublin (26-4) or No. 10 Durham (28-4) 6 p.m. Saturday.