Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Pinewood’s Roshan Bal lays up a shot against Alma Heights in the CCS Division V final.
With pressure defense, the Pinewood School boys basketball team overwhelmed Alma Heights Christian 57-23 Friday night to win its third consecutive Central Coast Section Division V title.
The suffocating full-court press helped the second-seeded Panthers (13-11) hold the top-seeded Eagles (26-4) scoreless in the third quarter and to just seven points in the second half.
Guard Greg Naumann paced Pinewood with 10 points, one of 11 Panthers to score.
“It’s a testament to the dedication and all the hard work the players put in right from the beginning of the season,” said Mani Messy, in his first year as head coach. “To get to this point and be playing this well, it’s just – the team did it and they did a wonderful job.”
Messy added that his team’s defensive effort helped awaken an offense that shot just 35.8 percent from the floor in the first half.
“That’s our ammo,” he said. “We believe that when we play good team defense, we can compete with anybody. That’s what got us to this point.”
Eagles coach Mark Bermudez, who defeated the Panthers 54-53 during preseason play in December, said his team’s 28 turnovers proved costly.
“We knew they were going to come and give us pressure,” Bermudez said. “We planned for it, but my guys just, you know, it’s the big stage and they weren’t quite ready for it. The turnovers are what really hurt us tonight.”
Leading 29-16 at halftime, the Panthers pushed their defense into overdrive to open the second half. The Eagles missed all nine of their shots in the third quarter and committed 10 turnovers.
Pinewood’s offense, meanwhile, continued to pad its 13-point halftime lead with a 10-0 scoring run in the first three minutes of the third.
Sophomore guard Ryan Brice kick-started the offense, draining a 3-pointer with 6:57 to go, followed by a layup 22 seconds later for five of his nine points in the game. Senior Lewis Owen added a jumper at 5:32, while Naumann completed a 3-point play at 4:57 after getting fouled on a layup and sinking the free throw.
“We just saw things opening up,” Brice said. “We started driving and kicking (out), playing team ball and hitting the open shots.”
The Panthers continued their pace in the fourth, outscoring the Eagles 16-7 while shooting 7-of-16 from the floor. Roshan Bal led the Panthers with four points in the quarter. The Eagles ended their scoreless drought with 6:02 left in the game when guard Gabe Bautista drew a foul and sank one of two free throws.
Leading comfortably at 50-21 in the fourth, the Panthers finished the game on a 7-2 run, limiting the Eagles to just one layup in the game’s final 4:40.
With the CCS tournament behind them, Messy said his Panthers will now turn their sights to the Northern California playoffs. Pinewood is scheduled to open NorCal against visiting Head-Royce (24-5) of Oakland 7 p.m. today.