Eastside Prep's win over
Pinewood just sets up
bigger showdowns ahead
It's two down and perhaps three to go for the Eastside Prep and Pinewood girls' basketball teams in their season-long head-to-head battles that often lead to one of the squads reaching the state finals.
The teams are done with their regular-season showdowns in the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) and, to no one's surprise, the Panthers have appropriately split their two games with each other.
Three more games remain on their league schedule, mere formalities based on this season's results, so Eastside and Pinewood can begin looking forward to the WBAL playoffs and their expected meeting in the finals on Feb. 19 at Menlo School.
Due to a change in the WBAL bylaws, the winner of that game will get the league's No. 1 seed for the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs. In all likelihood, that doesn't mean that much to either Eastside Prep or Pinewood. Each team has much bigger things in mind.
"They (Pinewood) are the state champs and that's what I tell my kids every day we come here; we're trying to take our program where they are," Eastside Prep coach Donovan Blythe said after his team's 44-40 overtime win over visiting Pinewood on Tuesday that left the teams tied for first place with 6-1 records.
Said Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler: "We still can win the state; we still can get it done."
Should either team attain their goal, it most likely will be done without a key starter.
Eastside Prep lost four-year starting guard Leanne Martin to a first-quarter knee injury that was reported as an MCL tear. An MRI could reveal worse and Martin could be sidelined the remainder of the year instead of just 2-3 weeks.
For Pinewood, senior Jenna McLoughlin is done for the season after re-injuring her ACL on Dec. 11, the same injury that forced her to miss 16 games last season.
"She had a relapse," Scheppler said of McLoughlin, his team's tallest player at 5-foot-10. "This (Eastside Prep) game was going to be her comeback. She's having surgery (on Friday). So, this is who we are."
Both teams will have to make some adjustments after this week's personnel losses and game.
Eastside Prep will have to find a way to prevent Pinewood senior Hailie Eackles from scoring 27 points again, and Pinewood will have to do a better job with its perimeter shooting and knowing who to foul and when.
Pinewood held a 38-35 lead on Tuesday with just 8.5 seconds to play. The Panthers were instructed by Scheppler to make sure Eastside's Ahjalee Harvey did not get off a three-point shot. Pinewood had three fouls to take and could have run out the clock while fouling.
When the ball was inbounded to Harvey, however, Pinewood didn't foul. Despite being trapped in the corner by two players, Harvey fired up a 3-pointer that swished just before time expired — sending the game to overtime.
Baskets by seniors Ausjerae Holland and Takara Burse plus two free throws from Harvey in overtime handed Pinewood its first WBAL loss in 15 games dating to last season. Pinewood is now 164-2 in league games since 1995, with both losses to Eastside Prep.
"All things happen for a reason, and this was our time," Harvey said.
The victory moved Eastside (6-1, 15-6) into a tie for first place with Pinewood (6-1, 15-5) and avenged Eastside's loss to Pinewood in the opening round of league play this season.
"This was a statement game," Harvey said. "We had to come out strong after losing to them this season. Every time they beat us, they gain confidence and momentum."
Perhaps Eastside Prep now has that momentum, thanks to Harvey's remarkable game-saving shot.
Harvey finished with 15 points while sophomore Hashima Carothers added 13 and proved crucial on the boards with 15 rebounds. Burse added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Eackles carried Pinewood, which managed only 13 points from the rest of the team. Pinewood made only six three-pointers (in 27 attempts) and shot poorly (14 of 52) from the field as Eastside Prep did a solid job with its perimeter defense.
"Playing in that type of environment was good for the girls," Scheppler said of the positive taken from the game. "We just didn't respond well to it."
In other WBAL Foothill Division action on Tuesday:
Menlo School took over sole possession of second place with a 52-49 victory over host Castilleja. Senior Emma Paye preserved the win by grabbing a rebound with 11 seconds left to play and setting up a layup. Drew Edelman led the Knights (4-3, 14-7) with 14 points while Gators' senior Natasha von Kaeppler had 21 points and 10 rebounds for her 60th career double-double.
Castilleja (1-6, 11-10) led by as many as 11 points and took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter. A jump hook by Edelman gave Menlo its first lead at 50-49. Trailing by one with 23 seconds left, von Kaeppler had the ball for one final layup that was missed. Castilleja's Laura Rose went up for the rebound, but Paye knocked it out of her hands.
"We tried to foul," said Castilleja coach Jez McIntosh, "and they got the ball to Maddie Huber who made the layup."
In Atherton, host Sacred Heart Prep (1-6, 10-7) dropped a 45-44 decision to Mercy-San Francisco (3-4, 16-6) despite getting 19 points from Melissa Holland.
In the PAL Bay Division, host Menlo-Atherton (3-4, 6-15) dropped a 58-51 decision to second-place San Mateo (5-2, 12-8) despite holding a four-point halftime lead. Tennyson Jellins led the Bears with 15 points while Anna Crookston Herschlag was solid at point guard and finished with 12 points.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto took care of business and opened a two-game lead with a 50-35 drubbing of host Monta Vista on Wednesday night in Cupertino. The Vikings improved to 8-0 in league (15-4 overall) and moved two games ahead of second-place Gunn, which was upset by previously winless Mountain View.
Palo Alto wrapped things up in the first half by jumping to a 16-5 first-quarter lead and extending its advantage to 28-11 by halftime. The Matadors (1-7) scored the first six points of the third quarter, but never could get their deficit to single digits. Paly was led by Sydney Davis, Shamelia Clay and Lindsay Black — all with 10 points — while senior Mariah Philips came off the bench with two big three-pointers in the first half to help spark the Vikings.
Gunn, meanwhile, likely took itself out of the championship picture in the division following a 49-42 upset loss to last-place Mountain View in the Titans' gym. Gunn (6-2, 14-4) was held scoreless in the second quarter and was held to a season-low six halftime points while suffering its biggest setback of the season.
With only four games to play, the Titans clearly need help from other teams to have any chance of catching the Vikings. The teams do meet on Feb. 11 at Gunn in a game where Paly could earn no worse than a co-title with a victory.
Junior Cat Perez did have her usual solid game with 17 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, but sophomore Claire Klausner and freshman Zoe Zwerling were held to a combined 11 points. Gunn did score 36 points in the second half, but the damage already had been done.