Pinewood girls clinch WBAL hoops with big fourth quarter

Stanford-bound Hannah Jump scored 24 points to help Pinewood clinch the West Bay Athletic League title with a 74-47 victory over Menlo School on Friday. Photo by David Hickey.

Pinewood was playing on the road Friday night against a Menlo team that went into the game with a record of 20-2, the same as Pinewood. And Menlo came out full of energy, determined to play better than the first time the two played, and threw the kitchen sink at the Panthers.

But this has become a familiar story. Pinewood took the best punches an opponent had to offer, trailed by eight points in the second quarter and still ended up winning by 27.

Final score: Pinewood 74, Menlo 47.

The West Bay Athletic League title-clinching win was Pinewood’s 64th consecutive league victory. But Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler wsa far from satisfied.

“I didn’t recognize my team in the first half,’’ he said. “We didn’t play with any kind of flow at all. We’re playing with seniors and Menlo’s playing with freshmen and sophomores. There was a weird vibe. The intensity and momentum were all on (Menlo’s) side. We’ll need to play better in future weeks.’’

Menlo (20-3, 9-2) led 9-7 after one quarter and made four of its first five shots in the second quarter to extend the lead to 19-11. That’s when Pinewood (21-2, 11-0) went on the first of several game-altering runs, outscoring Menlo 16-2. Freshman center Sharon Nejad scored right before halftime for Menlo to make it 27-23 at the break.

3-pointers by Klara Astrom and Hannah Jump and a three-point play by Kaitlyn Leung put Pinewood up 36-27 before three consecutive 3-pointers, one by Avery Lee and two by Maeia Makoni, brought Menlo even at 36-36.

But that was Menlo’s last gasp. Pinewood led 48-41 at the end of the third quarter and ran away and hid in the fourth quarter, closing the game on a 26-4 run.

“I’m proud of the girls for turning it around,’’ Scheppler said. “That’s the beauty of our team. We can play abysmal for the longest time and still find a spark. But we’d be out of the game if we played that way against Mitty.’’

Ah yes, Mitty, the team Pinewood beat in triple overtime in the NorCal Open Division final last year and the team on Pinewood’s postseason horizon this year. Barring a pretty huge upset Pinewood and Mitty will meet again for the fourth consecutive year in the Central Coast Section Open Division final in two weeks.

Menlo will also likely be included in the CCS Open Division field.

“Pinewood has set the bar high in our league,’’ Menlo coach John Paye said. “We want to get to that level where they’re at. The best way to do that is to play those kinds of teams.’’

A little different in terms of goals and perspectives compared to back when Paye started coaching the Menlo girls in the 1980s.

“When I started coaching here we were worried about getting ranked in the top 10 in San Mateo County,’’ Paye said.

Astrom scored 27 points for Pinewood and Jump scored 24. The two senior standouts made six 3-pointers apiece.

Avery Lee scored 12 for Menlo and Makoni had 11. Coco Layton and Nejad each scored 10 points.

“Obviously Pinewood is very skilled,’’ Paye said. “They’ve also got strength. They’re a little older than us, a little more mature. Our depth got stretched. Maeia Makoni hit some big shots for us. When she fouled out we lost our little mojo with her. But I can’t say enough for how hard we played and for our defense.’’

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