For the second year in a row, the Pinewood girls basketball team is heading back to the CIF NorCal Division V championship game.
Thanks to a strong second-quarter performance, No. 2-seeded Pinewood was able to hang on Tuesday night and defeat sixth-seeded Capital Christian of Sacramento, 54-44, in Los Altos Hills.
"Making it (to the Norcal championship game) was definitely a goal," Pinewood head coach Doc Scheppler said. "Anytime that you return all your players back from the previous year, and you win it last year, it's definitely an achievable goal and a meaningful goal to do that again."
The Panthers were led by senior Leeana Bade, who poured in 17 points and tied a season-high with three 3-pointers. Junior Marissa Hing had 14 points, while sophomore Chloe Eackles contributed seven points and six rebounds.
Pinewood shot only 26 percent from 3-point range (7 for 27) but connected on 55 percent of its 2-pointers (12 for 22) and was 90 percent from the free-throw line (9 of 10).
Capital Christian's leading scorer, Haleigh Filer (17.3 ppg), finished with 15 points. However, seven of her points came in the final moments of the game with the Pinewood victory already well in hand. Nicole Colbert, who was averaging 16.1 ppg, led the Cougars with 16.
After a highly competitive first quarter, Pinewood began to exert itself offensively and defensively in the second quarter.
The Panthers outscored the Cougars, 24-6, thanks to nine points from Bade and five points from Hing. The quarter ended on a 3-pointer from Eackles that gave Pinewood a 39-19 advantage at the half.
The Cougars tried to claw back in the second half, changing up from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone look, but Capital Christian still struggled to score and Pinewood was able to hang on for the win, despite scoring only 15 second-half points.
Pinewood will have to go through top-seeded Brookside Christian (28-4) on Saturday in the NorCal finals at American Canyon High (10 a.m.) to reach their second consecutive state championship game.
Brookside Christian ended Eastside Prep's dream of a repeat appearance in the NorCal finals with a 64-50 victory in the other semifinal Tuesday at Lincoln High in Stockton.
The No. 4-seeded Panthers, who trailed at halftime by only 23-22, finished 20-11 despite 15 points from senior Charmaine Bradford, 14 from senior Alexus Simon and 12 from junior Destiny Graham.
Brookside Christian was missing two starters, out with injuries, but got five 3-pointers and 21 points from Ariana Vaughn plus another 21 points from Sasha Brown. The host Knights opened the second half on a 12-2 run on Eastside Prep, which suited up six players and played just five.
Brookside, which won the Division V state title in 2012, played in the Open Division last season and lost in the opening round.
Of the Knights' four losses, three were to Mitty, Carondelet and Vanden -- all NorCal semifinalists.
Saturday's winner will advance to the CIF State Championships on Friday, March 28 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Tip off is 10 a.m.