By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Marissa Hing woke up earlier than usual Saturday morning, full of energy and excitement. Pinewood's sophomore point guard was bent on exacting a measure of revenge from Eastside Prep, a team that pounded Pinewood into submission three times during the West Bay Athletic League season.
Hing knew something would be different when she hit her first two free throws less than a minute into the CIF Northern California Division V girls' final at American Canyon High.
The foul shots gave her Panthers a lead they never relinquished en route to No. 3-seeded Pinewood's stunning 48-36 upset of No. 1 Eastside Prep, sending coach Doc Scheppler to his seventh state final, with the possibility of a sixth state championship.
"When I woke up (at 5:30 a.m.) I was already excited for this game," Hing said. "It's always good for me when I can make my first shot or free throw. It pumps me up."
Hing made all 13 of her free-throw attempts, including eight during a frantic fourth quarter that saw Eastside Prep pressuring Pinewood into nine of its 16 turnovers as it valiantly tried to recover from an 18-point deficit.
"It was revenge time," Hing said. "They took it to us right away all three times. We had good practices this week. We had a lot of new things, and coming up on the bus, we just got pumped up."
Hing scored 17 points, though she was 0 of 6 from long range, and junior Leeana Bade added 18 points as Pinewood denied Eastside Prep its first trip to the state final.
"We did a great job of executing our game plan almost to perfection," Scheppler said. "The crucial part of the game was getting off to a good start and getting comfortable in this environment. We established control from the outset."
Pinewood extended its winning streak to four games by beating a team they had lost to by 24, 13 and 15 points in three previous meetings.
"I thought we came out a little sluggish," Eastside coach Donovan Blythe said. "The first three quarters it seemed like we were somewhere else. We just didn't come out and play."
Pinewood worked out a game plan that included paying particularly close attention to Eastside's Hashima Carothers, who is headed to USF on a basketball scholarship in the fall.
Carothers finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds. She entered the game averaging 16.6 points and 11.2 rebounds a game.
Leeana Bade had the primary responsibility on Carothers, with anyone else in the vicinity ready to help when she got the ball. Sophomore Gabi Bade, who had six points and nine rebounds, and senior Angelina Mapa were never far away.
"We had help from the strong side," Leanna Bade said. "We had to try and box her out. The last few times she killed us with her rebounding. It was a challenge, especially with her being such a good player. But we finally got it after being outrebounded and outhustled before."
Carothers also found herself in foul trouble and had to sit out the final six minutes of the third quarter, which proved fatal for Eastside as it went 0 for 9 from the floor in the period. Pinewood opened its 18-point advantage without Carothers in the game.
"Having her in foul trouble was huge," Scheppler said. "During that segment of the third quarter the matchups were in our favor and we were able to get open lanes."
While neither team shot particularly well, the loss of Carothers affected Eastside Prep (22-9), which was 8 of 35 in the second half. Pinewood attempted 12 shots from the field, but was 18 of 21 from the foul line in the second half.
"If we could have just come out in the beginning and played our game," Carothers said. "I can't believe this is my last game."
Although Carothers will be attending college just a few miles up the road, she's already starting to miss the special bond.
"It's like my world, my life," Carothers said. "I love my coaching staff and my teammates are my family. I'm going to miss them so much."
Charmaine Bradford added 14 points and Alexus Simon grabbed 11 rebounds for Eastside Prep.
Pinewood lost freshman Chloe Eackles, one of Pinewood's top rebounders, to fouls early in the fourth quarter. Junior Kendahl Wallis-Lang stepped in to finish the job. She was a factor in helping to hold her team together as Eastside made its mad rush, closing to within nine points with 3:44 remaining.
Wallis-Lang, who starts about half the time, made two key free throws, grabbed a few key rebounds, misdirected several shots in the paint and was diving on the floor to retrieve loose balls with the ferocity of, well, of a Panther.
"When you have a player like that, who puts on the hard hat and gets scrappy, she's valuable," Scheppler said. "She has embraced her role and always plays hard."
Pinewood (23-8) meets SoCal No. 2 seed Sierra Canyon (26-9) in Sacramento in the state finale on Friday at 10 a.m. The Trailblazers beat Mo. 1 Horizon Christian, 63-62, in Saturday's SoCal final at Colony High in Ontario.
In Division II girls action, St. Francis beat Lynbrook, 44-19, to reach the state finals. Shelbi Aimonetti had 15 points, Jennifer Lucian, who attended Corte Madera in Portola Valley, added 12 and Kate Hoey grabbed 11 rebounds as the Lancers won their first ever NorCal title. The Vikings were held to the fewest points in a NorCal final.