Like the first time these teams met this season, the Pinewood School girls struggled to make shots Friday against Bishop O’Dowd in the Northern California Open Division girls basketball quarterfinals. But unlike that December game in Oakland, the Panthers overcame their shooting slump to beat the Dragons 51-43.
Third-seeded Pinewood, trailing 27-22 at halftime, rallied in the third quarter against No. 6 O’Dowd. The host Panthers opened the quarter with a 7-0 run and went into the fourth up 37-33.
Pinewood (25-3) held on for the win by making two big plays in the game’s final minute. With 45 seconds left and the Panthers up two, foul-plagued Klara Astrom drove to the basket and drew a foul. The sophomore knocked down both free throws, pushing Pinewood’s lead to 47-43.
“I don’t even know what play we were running,” Astrom said. “Sometimes when the play doesn’t work you’ve just got to take it yourself.”
With 19 seconds left, Mikaela Topper improvised as well. Instead of killing clock with Pinewood up four, she caught a pass and fired up a floater that went in.
“Golly sakes, Mikaela Topper,” Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said. “A catch and drive. You’re hitting a floater when we’re trying to use the shot clock all the way down. She hits it. … That was the game sealer right there.”
Pinewood, the third-best 3-point shooting team in the state, made only three treys Friday – all by Hannah Jump, who scored a team-high 14 points.
“When you play the team with that length and that athleticism, sometimes you can be – not intimidated – but tentative and indecisive,” Scheppler said.
O’Dowd buried all four of its 3-point tries in the first quarter, but the Panthers clamped down on defense after that. They didn’t surrender a 3 in the second and limited the Dragons (26-5) to just 16 points after halftime.
Yet the game was knotted at 43 with just under two minutes to go. Brianna Claros broke the tie on a successful drive to the hoop. She totaled 11 points, as did Topper.
Pinewood, which fell 62-49 at O’Dowd Dec. 10, advanced to the NorCal semifinals with Friday’s victory. The Panthers were slated to host No. 7 Cardinal Newman (29-3) Tuesday, after the Town Crier’s deadline. The winner advances to the NorCal final, scheduled 6 p.m. Saturday at Santa Clara University.
“My team is good enough to win the state,” Scheppler said.