Two teams that could face each other five times this season and meet for multiple championships will tip off the West Bay Athletic League girls' basketball season on Thursday when Pinewood hosts Eastside Prep at 6:30 p.m.
In a battle of the Panthers, the opening-night matchup pits last season co-champs as both squads finished the WBAL season with 9-1 records. Pinewood went on to win the 2010 Central Coast Section, NorCal and CIF Division V championships, while Eastside Prep was eliminated in the section semifinals.
"It's just great to play a championship-type game every game," said Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler. "It's all about getting better, so you ideally play your best in March."
Eastside Prep comes in with an 8-5 record and averaging 51.5 points a game. The Panthers went 1-3 at last week's West Coast Jamboree while playing in the elite Platinum Division. Pinewood comes in with a 9-3 mark and averaging 62.8 points per contest following a 71-48 nonleague loss to Mitty on Monday.
Both teams feature veteran lineups and top players who already have signed with Division I schools -- Ahajalee Harvey of Eastside Prep is headed to San Diego State while Hailie Eackles will play for Pacific. Harvey is averaging 14.5 points and 3.0 assists per game while Eackles is scoring at 21.6 with 2.8 steals per contest.
Eastside Prep started out 7-0 before Harvey sprained an ankle in the opening minute of what turned out to be a 63-51 loss to Mitty. She sat out the next game (a loss to Valley Christian) before returning for the West Coast Jamboree, where the Panthers opened against nationally No. 2-ranked Long Beach Poly (a 74-39 loss).
Eastside Prep then dropped close games to San Diego High (44-43) and Deer Valley (59-54) before beating Modesto Christian (42-37). The Panthers finally have a large roster (12), which allows the team to actually scrimmage for the first time. Last season, Eastside often practiced with just six players and at one point was down to just five.
Pinewood, meanwhile, is a little better off this season than last. The Panthers had four players sidelined by injury early last season and didn't have everyone back until the CCS finals. This season, Pinewood is missing only one player due to injury -- Jenna McLoughlin.
McLoughlin also was sidelined at this time last season with an ACL injury, which once again has her on the shelf.
"Jen is rehabbing to come back in three weeks and play," Scheppler said. "If it doesn't work out, she'll have surgery."
The 5-foot-10 McLoughlin is a big loss for Pinewood.
"We can still score the ball pretty effectively from outside and in," Scheppler said, "but we miss having a good finisher, another spot-up shooter. That's where is missed offensively. Defensively, we are missing a GREAT interior defender, a great on-ball defender and a great team defender not having Jen. (It's) A missing part that can't be replaced with our current personnel."
Not having McLoughlin inside hurt the Panthers against Mitty on Monday. The teams combined for 68 missed shots and Pinewood got only 13 rebounds.
"We didn't shoot particularly well," Scheppler said. "They did!
Mitty was 8-of-16 from three-point range and 19 of 43 from two-point range. Pinewood was 7-of-25 from three and 10-of-26.
"That spells a big L," said Scheppler.
Eackles finished with 20 points to lead the Panthers. She scored 65 points while helping Pinewoop go 3-0 and capture the annual Leo LaRocca Sand Dune Classic last week in San Francisco. Eackles' slashing style of play did cause some problems for Mitty.
"Mitty had trouble containing our dribble penetration, so I think we can be pretty effective offensively if we can finish some more plays at the rim," Scheppler said. "We missed a lot of floaters and finishes . . . and with spot-up shooters being guard, we don't get any offensive boards on those shots. On our missed 3's, we can scrap for those long rebounds where hustle and ball pursuit compensate for lack of size. That's why I like to shoot a lot of 3's."
Eastside Prep will have to contain Pinewood's perimeter game and get lots of production out of Harvey and fellow seniors Takara Burse and Ausjerae Holland.
The Panthers shot down Pinewood's 149-game league winning streak last season to open the WBAL season, but Pinewood returned the favor in the second meeting. Burse missed both games after suffering a season-ending knee injury.
She's back healthy and contributing once again along with sophomore post Hashima Carothers, who is averaging 9.8 rebounds a game.
Pinewood and Eastside Prep will meet twice during the WBAL season, likely in the WBAL playoffs, perhaps in the CCS playoffs and maybe again in NorCals.
In girls' basketball action Tuesday night:
Sacred Heart Prep kept its perfect season intact with a 45-31 nonleague victory over visiting San Mateo as Melissa Holland poured in 20 points. Only four points separated the teams heading into the final period, when the Gators (6-0) clamped down defensively and outscored the Bearcats 14-4.
In Atherton, freshman Maddy Price scored 20 points and 6-foot-3 Drew Edelman added 16 at host Menlo School cruised to a 77-47 nonleague victory over visiting San Mateo. Price added four assist and three steals for the Knights (9-3) while Edelman pulled down 11 rebounds. Menlo will host Woodside on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
E.J. Floreal and Max Schmarzo combined for 31 points to pace Palo Alto to a solid 70-44 romp over visiting Lynbrook to open the SCVAL De Anza Division season. The Vikings (1-0, 7-5), finally rounding into shape after getting players from their state championship football team, had 11 in the scoring column as they opened defense of their league title.
With Taylor Perricone tossing in 15 points, Gunn opened its SCVAL De Anza Division season with a 53-40 triumph over visiting Los Gatos on Tuesday night. Matt Redfield added 14 points, Anthony Cannon contributed 12 and Jack Hannan 10 as the Titans (1-0, 9-4) had one of their more balanced scoring efforts of the season.
In Atherton, Sacred Heart Prep opened defense of its WBAL title with a resoundng 81-54 thumping of visiting Crystal Springs. The Gators (1-0, 9-2) grabbed a 41-21 halftime lead and were never threatened. Eleven players scored for SHP with seniors Colin Terndrup (18) and Will McConnell (17) leading the way. McConnell's brothers, Reed and Cole, split another 24.
In Los Altos Hills, Pinewood set the tone with a 17-2 first-quarter lead and opened its WBAL season with a solid 60-20 thumping of visiting Priory. Pinewood (1-0, 9-2) got 11 players into the scoring column, with Solomone Wolfgramm leading the way with 10 as the host Panthers rolled to a 37-6 halftime lead despite missing all-league guard Dante Fraioli (injured). Pinewood did welcome back senior Arun Sundaresan, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL. Priory (0-1, 6-3) played without scoring leader Brandon Willhite, who had problems leaving Florida due to flight cancellations.
In East Palo Alto, host Eastside Prep (0-1, 5-6) dropped a 45-31 decision to Harker in another WBAL opener.
Gunn made its final tuneup before the SCVAL De Anza Division season by holding off visiting Menlo School, 1-0, in a nonleague match on Tuesday. Freshman Sarah Robinson scored the game-winning goal off an assist from Liza Marinaro with eight minutes remaining.
Menlo freshman Sienna Stritter hit the post late in the first half from 20 yards out. The Knights failed to capitalize on numerous second-half scoring opportunities before Robinson finally got the game-winner as the Titans improved to 5-1-1 while Menlo fell to 1-2-3. Gunn will host Los Altos on Wednesday to open the league season at 6 p.m.
In Burlingame, Menlo-Atherton opened its PAL Bay Division season with a 2-0 loss at Burlingame. The Bears (0-1, 5-1-1) had six shots while keeper Caitlyn Lanigan had five saves.