Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Pinewood's Klara Astrom jumps past a Salesian player to score a basket Tuesday night at Gunn High School.
The Pinewood School girls basketball team is bound for Sacramento.
The Panthers advanced to the Open Division state final for the second year in a row by beating Salesian 64-49 in the Northern California title game Tuesday (March 5) at Gunn High.
Pinewood (27-3 overall) is scheduled to face Southern California champ Sierra Canyon (32-1) of Chatsworth at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Golden 1 Center. The Panthers lost to Windward in last year's final, also played at the home of the Sacramento Kings.
Third-seeded Pinewood got off to a slow start against No. 4 Salesian (25-9) of Richmond, falling behind 8-0. Down seven to start the second quarter, the Panthers took a 30-29 lead into halftime on Kaitlyn Leung's corner 3 in the closing seconds.
Pinewood took control of the game in the third quarter, in which Klara Astrom scored 10 straight points. The Yale-bound senior drove left for a layin, buried back-to-back 3s and spun past Salesian's 6-foot-5 center Angel Jackson on a drive down the middle to push the Panthers' lead to 40-32 with 2:22 left in the period.
Astrom finished with a game-high 27 points that included seven 3-pointers.
"Klara was great," said coach Doc Scheppler, who acknowledged that this was the best overall game of her career.
Salesian twice cut its deficit to six points in the fourth quarter, but Pinewood answered with 3s both times. Leung drained the first trey and Hannah Jump hit the other, which put the Panthers up 55-46 with 3:21 to play. The seniors each finished with 10 points.
Annnika Decker added eight points and Courtni Thompson had seven.
Pinewood enters the state final playing some of its best basketball of the season. The Panthers won all three of their NorCal games by double-digit points.
"We have a focused, determined, confident air about us now, and it's so special to be a part of," Scheppler said.
This marks the 10th time Pinewood has reached the state final under Scheppler. The Panthers last won the crown in 2014 when they were playing in Division V.
For coverage of the state championship title, scheduled for Saturday in Sacramento, pick up next week's issue.