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March 09, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Pinewood girls are hoping to prove they are the state's best D-5 team Pinewood girls are hoping to prove they are the state's best D-5 team (March 09, 2005)

by Keith Peters

Doc Scheppler has said all season long that his team ranked among the best in Pinewood girls' basketball history.

Considering that the Panthers had won seven straight Central Coast Section championships and the 1999 state title, Scheppler's praise was high, but not without merit.

His current team is 22-5. Since losing back-to-back games in the Mitty Holiday Classic in December, the Panthers have won 15 straight. The most recent triumph was a dominating 62-42 win over Sacred Heart Prep in the CCS Division V championship game Saturday at Santa Clara High.

That win, the team's eighth straight section title, gave the third-seeded Panthers a home game Tuesday night (7 p.m.) in the opening round of the Northern California Tournament against No. 6 South Fork (27-5).

The semifinals on Thursday offer a possible trip to the College of Marin, where No. 2-seeded Branson (27-6) likely awaits at 7 p.m. The NorCal finals are Saturday at Delta College in Stockton at 1 p.m.

Scheppler, for one, believes he has a team to reach Saturday's finale.

"We're the best team in the state in Division V," Scheppler said. "There's no other team out there that's better than we are. We've prepared for this time for five months. If we play our best, we can beat any other team."

The Panthers, however, will compete in the NorCal tournament without 5-foot-9 junior wing Hannah Lippe, a transfer from Los Altos this season. Lippe suffered a hairline fracture in her right (shooting) hand at the beginning of the second quarter Saturday during Pinewood's romp over Sacred Heart Prep.

"It's going to hurt us a lot," said Scheppler.

Lippe's absence leaves Pinewood with a rotation of seven players - seniors Daniela Roark and Thea Morin, junior Liz Altmaier, sophomores Sami Field-Polisso and Tika Koshiyama-Diaz plus freshmen Aly Geppert and Grace Beck.

Pinewood has played, and beaten, South Fork this season (by 17 points) in the Urban Tournament. Should the Panthers win their opener, No. 2 Branson will be the likely opponent in the semifinals.

Branson beat Pinewood, 48-41, also in the Urban Tournament. Branson later lost to Forest Lake Christian of Auburn, which received the No. 1 seed in Division V.

"Branson played us really well," Scheppler said. "They made their three's and free throws. They played great. We deserved to lose."

There will be no easy game for Pinewood this week.

"There's not much room for error," Scheppler said of Tuesday's opener. "We have to play really well to win. We did that the last time we played them."

Scheppler expects his team will have the opportunity to shoot more three-pointers than in the CCS title game, where the Panthers made just four of 15 attempts while pressured on the perimeter by Sacred Heart Prep.

"I think we'll get enough shots," Scheppler said. "We just have to knock them down."

Against SHP (19-13), Altmaier led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds. Geppert contributed 10 points while Roark and Koshiyama-Diaz got to the basket for nine points each. The Panthers' defense held the Gators to just .234 percent shooting from the floor.

Sacred Hear Prep, which played its NorCal opener on the road at No. 5 Hayfork (29-1), played Pinewood tough on the perimeter. That forced the Panthers to take the ball inside, and they did effectively as Roark and Koshiyama-Diaz converted numereous layup attempts.

"We knew that shots were going to be hard to come by in terms of the shots we like, off the drive-and-kick," Scheppler explained. "They were going to make things real difficult, but we were able to set some good screens. Once we got to the lane, I thought we were going to be OK . . . We never really struggled to get shots."

Sacred Heart Prep remained close at 18-17, but Roark scored nine of her 11 points in the second half to help push the Panthers to a 52-30 lead at the end of three quarters.

So what does Pinewood need to improve on this week?

"We need to be better defensively," Scheppler said.

"We need to stay focused and work on our defense," said Roark, who was holding the CCS trophy after the game. "We have plans for NorCal and state. I want to hold a state trophy in my hands."

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