Two special achievements will be on the line when the Pinewood girls' basketball team seeks to defend its state championship next weekend.
The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in the state in Division V, can break the all-time state record for most three-pointers in a season and win the fifth state title in school history when they take on St. Bernard (24-10) of Playa del Rey in the CIF Division V finals at ARCO Arena in Sacramento at 3:30 p.m.
Pinewood (27-5) needs only one three-pointer to reach 339 treys in a season, which would break the state record of 338. That mark was first set by Pinewood in 2003 and tied on Saturday when the Panthers made eight 3-pointers in a 41-36 triumph over St. Joseph-Notre Dame of Alameda in the CIF NorCal Division V finale at Folsom High.
"I'd rather have one than the other," said Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler, when asked which achievement he'd prize most.
In order to win a state title, however, the Panthers likely will need to make more than one trey and, quite possibly, shoot better than they did against St. Joseph, which was rankedNo. 2 i the state in Division V, according to MaxPreps. Pinewood connected on just four of 22 three-point attempts in the first half and trailed, 19-18. The Panthers were 4-of-16 in the second half and finished with just 13 field goals in 51 attempts.
"Our shot selection wasn't very good and we turned it over too much against their zone," Scheppler said. "It never was a smooth-flowing game, as far as offensive execution. But, we won."
The key to the game, Scheppler said, was Pinewood holding its own on the boards (both teams had 38 rebounds) and a solid defensive effort that held St. Joseph's 6-foot-4 Carmen Lockhart to 10 points and a trio of high-scoring guards to a combined 12 points.
"They (St. Joseph) did their damage on the offensive boards and putbacks," explained Scheppler. "Today, it was a grinder . . . and you're happy you're moving on."
Even standout Pinewood senior Hailie Eackles didn't have one of her best games, after averaging 28 points a game over the previous five contests. She finished with 16 points on 4-of-22 shooting and now has 2,089 in her career. Eackles also grabbed 18 rebounds. She surpassed the 2,000-point plateau a few weeks ago in the CCS Division V championship game.
Eackles still came through in the clutch with three free throws in the final moments to hold off St. Joseph, which trailed by 34-32 before Kelsey Morehead hit a big three-pointer for a 37-32 lead.
Eackles made two free throws for a 39-32 lead with 47 seconds to play, made another and then Morehead sank the final free throw.
Senior Caitlin Ciardella made two big treys in the second half and played well to keep the Panthers on top.
"We made a mess of the final two minutes," Scheppler said. "We were 2-of-6 on free throws."
Pinewood, however, did a good job defensively when it counted. Freshman Leeana Bade came in when Angelina Mapa got into foul trouble and played steady. Miranda Seto sparked Pinewood in the first half before fouling out with 2:10 to play in the fourth quarter.
"I was really pleased with our defensive effort," Scheppler said. "We forced 19 turnovers, that was crucial.
"Now, we're looking to have a great game in the state finals."