Panthers no match for Mitty in CCS Open final

More than 30 minutes after Friday’s Central Coast Section Open Division girls basketball final, Annika Decker emerged from Pinewood School’s subdued locker room with ice packs wrapped around both ankles. Her shin splints hurt, she acknowledged, but the lopsided loss to Mitty hurt more.

“That was kind of a rough one,” the point guard said of the 76-44 setback to the Monarchs at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion. “They rushed us into things that we wouldn’t normally do, and we just didn’t play like how we normally would. We didn’t run back in transition defense and we just couldn’t make our finishes – like I couldn’t hit a layup, and I take blame for that.”

Una Jovanovic
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Pinewood’s Una Jovanovic dribbles toward the hoop in Friday’s CCS Open Division final. She scored 11 points.

To be fair, top-seeded Mitty (24-3) has a way of making good teams like No. 2 Pinewood (23-4) play poorly. The Monarchs have now won 17 games in a row – by a whopping 36 points on average – with a combination of size, depth, athleticism and coaching that few teams in the country can match.

“It’s just a matter of getting used to that pace, their strength, their length,” Panthers coach Doc Scheppler said. “… They’re good for a reason. You know, they’re ranked pretty high for a reason.”

Ranked No. 3 in the nation, Mitty dominated the boards – outrebounding Pinewood 51-37 – and produced 29 second-chance points. The Monarchs also employed a stifling full-court press that led to most of the Panthers’ 20 turnovers; Mitty scored 24 points off Pinewood’s miscues.

“We know how to break their press – we just need to get into that quicker,” junior Decker said. “It took us too long to get used to breaking it.”

Pinewood committed five turnovers in the opening quarter, yet only trailed 13-10. The Panthers scored the game’s first basket on Decker’s floater, which banked in, and their eight other points of the period came from inside the paint as well.

The Monarchs started to pull away in the second stanza. They opened the quarter by scoring eight straight points, a spurt that featured back-to-back 3s from Ashley Hiraki and Olivia Williams. Pinewood’s Courtni Thomp-son scored the next four points (floater and press-break layin) to cut the deficit to 21-14 with 4:54 left in the half, but the Panthers wouldn’t get any closer. Mitty finished the quarter on an 11-3 run to lead by 15.

Things only got worse for Pinewood in the second half. The Monarchs doubled the Panthers’ score at 38-19 on Katie Springs’ putback with 5:19 to play in the third quarter.

Springs was one of two 6-foot-1 juniors from Mitty who gave the Panthers fits Friday. Springs totaled 13 points and grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds; Williams, who transferred from Pinewood after her freshman year, scored a game-best 17 points and made two steals.

Williams was among seven Monarchs to score in the third quarter, which ended with them ahead 53-26. Mitty shot 9-of-18 from the field in the quarter; Pinewood was 4-12. For the game, the Panthers made only 16 of their 57 shots from the floor (28.1%), including an icy 3-for-18 effort from beyond the arc (16.7%).

“I think we had players that didn’t play their best,” Scheppler said. “For us to beat them, we have to play our best. We have to shoot better, finish better. I don’t think we finished very well.”

Una Jovanovic was the only Panther to total double-digit points (11). Valentina Saric added eight points and Decker contributed six.

At least Pinewood won’t have to worry about meeting Mitty again this year; the teams have been placed in different divisions of the Northern California playoffs that begin this week. The Monarchs remain in the Open Division, earning the top seed. The Panthers have been dropped to Division I and have landed the fourth seed. Pinewood was scheduled to host No. 5 Granite Bay (20-9) in first-round play Tuesday, after the Town Crier’s deadline, with the winner advancing to Thursday’s semifinals.

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