By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Hailie Eackles completed an amazing career with a 31-point, 9-rebound performance in helping the Pinewood girls' basketball team complete a sensational season by defeating St. Bernard, 67-56, Friday at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento to successfully defend its CIF Division V state title.
"I can't imagine going out any better in my senior year," Eackles said. "It feels amazing."
Eackles also helped Pinewood (28-5) set a state record as she made four of the team's eight 3-pointers. Pinewood finished with 346, surpassing its own mark of 338 accomplished in 2003 that the Panthers tied last week in the NorCal finals.
"It's magical," Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said. "I just have really clutch girls. (Assistant) Anna (Tracy) and I are amazed how well they play in big games."
The Panthers held an 18-15 edge after the first quarter and continued to build their lead throughout the contest.
St. Bernard's Kacy Swain, headed to UCLA next year, found herself in foul trouble early and had to sit out the final 6:51 of the first half. Swain, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds, eventually fouled out.
That allowed the Panthers to take a 37-28 lead into halftime. Pinewood eventually built a 16-point advantage -- it's biggest lead -- near the end of the third quarter as Eackles sparked a 13-6 run with seven points for a 50-34 lead.
The Vikings (24-15) closed to within 57-49 early in the final quarter after Ajai Ford hit a 3-pointer. Eackles and Miranda Seto responded with a layup and two free throws, respectively, to up the lead to 61-49 with 3:41 left to play and the Panthers maintained the lead.
Pinewood took a 52-42 advantage into the final quarter despite a severe size difference. The Vikings outrebounded the Panthers, 42-27.
Pinewood became the first Division V girls' team in state history to win five state crowns with the win over the Vikings. The Panthers also became the first Division V team to win back-to-back titles twice (2005-06 and 2010-11). Only three girls' teams -- Brea Olinda (nine), Bishop Montgomery (six) and Sacred Heart Prep (six) -- have won more state titles.
Pinewood beat St. Anthony of Long Beach, 62-44, in last year's state final. St. Bernard last won a Division IV state crown in 1998.
The Panthers were 8-of-16 from long range and shot 46.7 percent from the field overall. They also made 17 of 26 free throws, with Seto going 10-of-12 from the foul line to help her record 21 points.
While Pinewood was outrebounded by the taller Vikings, the Panthers were certainly not outhustled, forcing St. Bernard into 21 turnovers.
Eackles enjoyed her second state title better than the first simply because "I'm a senior," she said. "I just wanted to give it my all and get a second one."
Eackles finished her distinguished basketball career at Pinewood with 2,120 career points. She averaged 26.7 points and 10.4 rebounds in seven postseason games. Her 12 field goals tied the Division V state championship record co-held by former Stanford All-American Candice Wiggins (La Jolla Country Day, 2002) and Donna Terpsma (Ripon Christian, '98). She also received the Sportsmanship Award for the Division V girls.
"Hailie is just a phenomenal player," Scheppler said. "She raises her level of play in the big games."
Scheppler could have said that about all of his players who saw floor time on Friday as the Panthers made the most of their talent and came away once again with the big prize.
CIF Division V Championship
At Power Balance Pavilion, Sacramento
St. Bernard 15 13 14 14 - 56
Pinewood 18 19 15 15 - 67
St. Bernard -- Cayanne Butler 1-11 2-2 4, Kacy Swain 5-9 2-3 13, Lajahna Drummer 7-20 2-3 16, Michelle Curry 3-9 2-4 8, Angelica Laury 0-1 0-0 0, Ajai Ford 1-4 0-0 3, Dominique Burford 0-0 0-1 0, Demoria White 1-1 0-0 2, Taylor Heath 0-1 0-0 , Destini French 5-7 0-0 10. Totals: 23-63 8-13 56.
Pinewood -- Kelsey Morehead 2-3 3-4 7, Caitlin Ciadella 1-3 0-0 3, Hailie Eackles 12-23 3-8 31, Miranda Seto 4-11 10-12 21, Angelina Mapa 0-2 0-0 0, Leeana Bade 2-3 1-2 5. Totals 21-45 17-26 67.
Halftime: Pinewood 37, St. Bernard 28. Three-point goals: St. Bernard 2-8 (Swain, Ford), Pinewood 8-16 (Eackles 4, Seto 3, Ciardella). Rebounds: St. Bernard 42 (Swain 10, Drummer 10), Pinewood 27 (Eackles 9). Assists: St. Bernard 11 (Butler 4), Pinewood 6. Turnovers: St. Bernard 21, Pinewood 13.
Records: St. Bernard 24-15; Pinewood 28-5