Minutes after the Pinewood School girls basketball team knocked off host Carondelet 51-39 in the Northern California Open Division semifinals, the Panthers’ celebration turned to unmitigated elation. They had just received news that Salesian upset Mitty in Saturday’s other semifinal game.
“The girls were very excited about it,” said Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler, whose team fell to the top-seeded Monarchs 72-51 in the Central Coast Section final two weeks ago. “Mitty is a power, and they present more difficulties for us than Salesian.”
And as the third seed in the playoffs, the Panthers (26-3 overall) were scheduled to host the No. 4 Pride (25-8) at Gunn High in Tuesday’s NorCal final, played after the Town Crier’s deadline.
The teams played twice in the regular season, with Pinewood prevailing 47-37 at the West Coast Jamboree Dec. 29 and losing 54-45 at Salesian Jan. 26.
“The second time we were abysmal,” said Scheppler, whose team shot 25 percent from the field.
The Panthers shot 42 percent Saturday and led almost the entire way against No. 2 Carondelet (26-5), which beat them on the same court Jan. 9. Pinewood got off to a much better start this time, closing the first quarter with a 6-0 run – capped by Klara Astrom’s 3-pointer – to go up 14-10. The lead grew to 26-16 by halftime behind a seven-point quarter from Kaitlyn Leung.
Astrom finished with a team-high 17 points and Leung added 14.
“Klara played really well; she hit a couple of 3s and got to the basket and finished,” Scheppler said. “And Kaitlyn was fabulous.”
Hannah Jump added 10 points and Cournti Thompson scored nine that included a corner 3 to put the Panthers ahead 49-37 late in the fourth quarter.
In the quarterfinals three days earlier, Pinewood pummeled No. 6 St. Mary’s of Stockton 79-47. Down 6-4 three minutes in, Pinewood concluded the quarter with a 15-6 run that the visitors never recovered from.
Leung poured in nine of her game-high 23 points during the spurt, including a 3-pointer from the right corner.
The Panthers extended their advantage to 42-19 by halftime, thanks to a sensational second quarter. They shot 9-for-12 from the field, including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.
Thompson accounted for one of those 3s and scored seven of her 17 points in the period. Leung hit a 3 as well, along with a drive with one second left in the quarter.
Meanwhile, the Rams (22-9) didn’t score from anywhere but the foul line. They missed all nine of their field-goal tries and committed four turnovers in the second.
Jump buried back-to-back 3s early in the third quarter, providing Pinewood with a 48-24 advantage. The senior totaled 20 points.
The lead ballooned to 69-38 midway through the fourth on Leung’s left-side 3, set up by Astrom’s drive-and-dish pass. Leung finished 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
Did she expect to have such a big game?
“Actually, I did not,” Leung said. “At first, I had the wrong match-up and that just frazzled me, but I just dismissed that, got my person, played solid D and made some shots.”
Making shots against Salesian may prove more challenging. The Pride held Mitty to a season-low for points in Saturday’s 44-41 win and are the lone team to keep Pinewood under 50 points this year.
“They’re reasonably athletic, well coached, aggressive and they know our team and style pretty well,” Scheppler said of Salesian.
The winner advances to Saturday’s state final in Sacramento, where the Panthers lost to Windward in last year’s title game.