"It will be a great challenge and opportunity for us,'' Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said. "This is why you work hard the whole year.''
This is the eighth year the CCS Open Division has been in existence. Pinewood will be making its sixth consecutive appearance in the finals. The Panthers have lost each of their five previous championship games, but have gone on to some notable success in the NorCal and state playoffs.
They will go into Friday's game as a prohibitive underdog. Mitty (23-3), which beat St. Ignatius 62-31 in the earlier semifinal at Gunn, has a 39-point average margin of victory in 13 games against CCS opposition. The Monarchs have won all 13 of those games by 22 points or more. What will the Panthers need to do to have success?
"We need to rebound and minimize easy baskets,'' Scheppler said. "They kill you on the offensive boards and turn you over. They play so hard and are so competitive. Our girls will have to match that. If they do we can win.''
Against Menlo, Pinewood led 13-5 after one quarter and 29-13 at halftime. Menlo (20-6) made only 4 of 23 first-half field-goal attempts.
"We didn't give them any clean looks,'' Scheppler said. "All their shots were rushed.''
Menlo bombed in 11 3-pointers in its quarterfinal win over Sacred Heart Cathedral. Coco Layton hit six and Maiea Makoni four. They managed only one apiece against Pinewood.
"We came ready to play, confident we could win,'' said junior wing Courtni Thompson, a three-year starter who led Pinewood with 16 points. "We knew what Menlo was going to run.''
Una Jovanovic scored 12 points and Maia Garcia had 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Junior point guard Avery Lee led Menlo with 14 points. Sophomore post Sharon Nejad, despite giving away four inches to Garcia, scored 10 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.
"Our shots weren't falling and their shots were,'' Nejad said. "We woke up near the end, but it was too late to come back.''
Now the Knights will look ahead to the state playoffs. Last year, after going 0-2 in the CCS Open Division playoffs, they came back to win the state Division II championship.
"Hopefully we can take it all the way again,'' Nejad said.
Boys Open Division
Menlo-Atherton forced top-seeded Mitty into an early timeout in the first quarter of Wednesday's Central Coast Section Open Division boys basketball semifinal after scoring the first eight points of the contest and Mitty knew this was not going to be another cakewalk.
The teams met early in the season at Mitty, with the Monarchs pinning a 36-point non-league defeat on M-A. The stakes were much higher when the teams met again at Independence High.
Justin Anderson, who scored seven of M-A's first 10 points, all before Mitty made its first field goal, hit a jumper from near the free throw line to give M-A a 47-46 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
Mitty responded with eight unanswered points and the Monarchs went on to beat M-A 63-55 to advance into Friday night's final against Bellarmine.
"A big improvement, but unfortunately at the end of the day it was still a loss,'' M-A coach Mike Molieri said. "I'm proud of my team, but (Mitty) made plays at the end and we didn't.''
Anderson led M-A (22-4) with 14 points. Thomas scored 12, had seven rebounds and four steals. J.D. Carson, another talented football player, added 12 points, all on 3-pointers as M-A tested Mitty like no other public school had.
"We slowed them a little with our physical play,'' Molieri said. "But they're super athletic and shoot the ball well.''
M-A will be placed, probably in Division I, into the NorCal playoffs.
"If we're in Division I again I hope we can host a game instead of being sent to Fresno (like the Bears were last year),'' Molieri said.
A lot happened in the first 2 1/2 minutes or so. After Spencer Lin made a free throw, M-A held an 11-2 edge. Mitty rallied to grab the lead at 16-14 with just over three minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
Anderson, on his way to Washington State on a football scholarship, hit another 3-pointer to help the Bears inch ahead once again. Mitty responded by scoring the final six points, opening a 22-16 edge after one quarter.
It's easy to notice how Anderson affected the game from his role as point guard. He put the Bears ahead on three separate occasions during the game, including in the final period. He also got the ball into the hands of other hot shooters.
Nick Tripaldi nailed a 3-pointer and Thomas scored out of the intermission and the Bears were within 31-29.
Mitty's biggest lead of the game was 11 points and that didn't last very long. M-A kept coming after Mitty whatever the situation.
Trevor Wargo hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter, bringing the Bears within 42-39. M-A was making sure they stayed within striking distance.
But there was no answer for Mitty's late run in the final quarter.
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