Beating Valley Christian-Dublin 57-46 moved the Pinewood School girls basketball team only two wins from a return to the state final, though the Panthers’ uneven performance Saturday left coach Doc Scheppler concerned about their chances of getting there.
Host Pinewood (27-3) couldn’t sustain the big leads it built in both halves of the Northern California Division V quarterfinal game. The Panthers’ ill-advised shots and fouls – and turnovers – let the Vikings (27-5) hang around.
“That’s what is kind of disturbing as a coach that makes you think, ‘Are we going to do that in these next games?’” said Scheppler, whose team was scheduled to host Capital Christian (Sacramento) Tuesday after the Town Crier’s press deadline. “If we’re really good and going to be a state champion, we have to play possession by possession and be smart.”
The second-seeded Panthers struggled to take care of the ball and make shots against No. 7 Valley Christian, a team they routed 80-41 two months earlier. Pinewood committed 18 turnovers Saturday and shot 31 percent from the field. The Panthers fired up 41 shots from 3-point range and connected on only 11 (27 percent).
Most of those misses came in the first quarter when Pinewood shot 3-for-17 on 3s, yet led 13-7. The Panthers opened the second quarter on an 11-5 run featuring two drives by Marissa Hing (team-high 14 points) and a trey by backcourt mate Gabi Bade.
The Vikings sliced Pinewood’s 12-point lead in half by intermission. A traveling violation wiped out a 3-pointer for the Panthers, who cost themselves three more points by fouling Valley Christian’s Nina Bessolo on a long-range shot in the final minute.
“I thought we kind of had the game taken away from us in the last three minutes of the first half with foul calls,” said Scheppler, who voiced his displeasure to the refs about the travel call and a charge that negated another basket. “But I thought we did a great job at the start of the third quarter when we got some separation.”
Pinewood opened the period with a 3-pointer from guard Monique McDevitt (11 points), who added a fastbreak layin a minute and a half later. Freshman forward Akayla Hackson knocked down two free throws in between.
The Vikings, now down 16, didn’t score until 3:13 remained in the quarter. Pinewood led 43-31 at quarter’s end, getting treys from Chloe Eackles and Bade in the closing minutes.
The lead ballooned to a game-best 17 points a minute into the fourth, thanks to McDevitt’s right-wing 3 and forward Kendahl Wallis-Lang’s putback.
Valley Christian didn’t quit, however, reducing the deficit to 11 with 2:35 to play. That’s as close as the game would get, as Pinewood matched the Vikings’ scoring the rest of the way. Leeana Bade scored in the paint off a drive-and-dish pass from Hackson, and Hing drained a pair of free throws.
“We made some nice plays at crucial times,” Scheppler said. “We’re pretty good, but there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
If the Panthers beat No. 6 Capital Christian (26-5) Tuesday, they face top seed Brookside Christian (27-4) or No. 4 Eastside Prep (20-10) 10 a.m. Saturday in the NorCal final at American Canyon High.