Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Throughout the season, the Pinewood School girls basketball team has found ways to win without much height. But in Friday’s Division V state title game, the Panthers faced too tall of an order.
Pinewood struggled with the size and athleticism of Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, which prevailed 47-33 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
The Panthers did a solid job defending 6-foot-1 Kennedy Burke and 5-11 Cheyanne Wallace – who combined to shoot seven of 27 and scored 14 and seven points, respectively – but both sophomores stung them in other ways. Burke grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots – swatting two of them into the seats – while Wallace corralled 11 rebounds and notched three blocks.
“It was a different feeling for one of our players to go against somebody who can go up and get the ball like they do,” said Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler, who noted that Sierra Canyon’s third-tallest starter (5-10 Zoe Goss) matched the tallest players in his lineup (forwards Leeana Bade and Chloe Eackles). “I thought that was a key part of the game.”
The Panthers (23-9) kept pace early, leading 12-9 after the first quarter. Bade’s drive and guard Marissa Hing’s high-arcing 3 from the top of the key put Pinewood ahead 5-2 just 75 seconds into the game. The teams traded baskets the rest of the quarter, with the Panthers scoring last on a layin by Eackles set up by guard Monique McDevitt’s drive and dish with three seconds left.
Pinewood extended the lead to 14-9 when Hing converted a steal into a layup with 5:30 remaining in the second quarter. The Trailblazers (24-9) scored the next nine points, the final six on 3s by guard Gabi Nevill.
The Panthers responded with a trey by guard Gabi Bade (Leeana’s sister) – who finished with a team-high eight points – to cut the deficit to 18-17 at halftime.
Pinewood wasn’t able to get closer. Sierra Canyon scored eight of the first nine points of the third quarter. Gabi then made a 3 from the left baseline, closing the gap to 26-21, but Trailblazer guard Jordan Sneed quickly countered with a trey of her own.
With the Panthers intent on double-teaming Sierra Canyon inside, perimeter shots were there for the taking. Nevill sank another 3 with 1:30 left, pushing the Trailblazers’ advantage to 34-21.
“That was the pill we were willing to swallow,” Scheppler said.
Pinewood, meanwhile, clanked shot after shot from 3-point range. The Panthers missed 11 of their 12 shots from beyond the arc in the third and trailed 36-22 at the end of it.
“This is my second time here, but it just felt different,” said Leeana, on the team that won state in 2011. “We didn’t shoot as well as we did (that year).”
Pinewood finished five-of-26 shooting from 3 (19.2 percent) in Friday’s game.
The Panthers opened the fourth with a top-of-the-key 3 from Leeana, the start of a 7-0 run.
“Our fight really showed in the fourth quarter,” Scheppler said. “I thought we did a great job in the fourth cutting it to seven after being down 14.”
But Sierra Canyon reacted by scoring the next six points – four by Sneed – to push the lead back to double-digits at 42-29 with 3:05 to play.
Although the season didn’t end as Pinewood had hoped, Scheppler put it in perspective during the postgame press conference as a few of his players fought back tears.
“Anytime you get to the state championship game, you’ve had a successful season,” said the coach, who guided the team to five state titles in seven tries. “I’m thankful for being able to coach these girls the whole year. It was a great season for us.”
A season Leeana said her team could learn from.
“I hope this game kind of teaches us a lesson for next time,” she said. “I hope to come back here again next year.”