It’s a stunner in the CIF NorCal Open Division girls basketball championship as Pinewood of Los Altos Hills goes to three overtimes to knock off previously unbeaten state No. 1 and national No. 1 Archbishop Mitty of San Jose. In the CIF SoCal Open title game, Windward of Los Angeles takes down defending Open Division state champ Clovis West of Fresno.
For writeups of the two Division I girls regional title games and for scores from the other divisions, CLICK HERE.
(Ronnie Flores contributed to this report by writing about the SoCal Open Division)
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They say the third time is a charm.
Well, the third time wasn’t either but that fourth time? Magically delicious.
After losing the last three meetings, Pinewood of Los Altos Hills has now won the most important one after overcoming a 13-point third quarter deficit to post a thrilling 78-67 triple overtime victory over state and national No. 1 Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, and with it comes the CIF Northern Regional Open Division championship.
The win avenges a 76-62 loss in the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division championship two weeks ago and losses in the two previous CCS Open title games.
In his usual comic self, Pinewood head coach Doc Scheppler couldn’t wait to burst into his Howard Cosell routine and started the postgame press conference poking a little fun at his undersized squad.
“Some said too small to play pro football,” Scheppler quipped.
The reality is Pinewood (27-2) may be undersized but they had some players come up huge, particularly Stanford-committed junior Hannah Jump and UC-San Diego-bound senior Briana Claros.
Mitty came into the game as the No. 1 team in every national ranking with a perfect record but played a good portion of the second half without junior sensation Haley Jones. She picked up her third foul and then her fourth shortly thereafter with 3:35 left in the third and Mitty leading 39-28. Jones returned with 5:42 left to play and Mitty leading 50-43 after she had a putback, but Jones fouled out with 1:31 remaining in regulation on a questionable call and Mitty clinging to a 50-48 lead that would totally evaporate after the teams were tied 50-50 at the end of regulation.
Mitty almost won it in the first overtime but Pinewood’s Klara Astrom got a feed from Claros to tie it at 57-57 and send it to a second overtime. The Monarchs had a chance to win in the second overtime, or lose it, as Ashley Hiraki missed the first of two free-throws with 6.1 seconds left but made the second for a 65-65 tie and a third extra period.
Pinewood’s Kaitlyn Leung hit a 3-pointer to open the third overtime and after neither team scored for almost two minutes, Mitty closed to 68-67 on two free throws by Charlize Andaya, but those were the final points the Monarchs would tally. Claros had two baskets and a free throw to give Pinewood a 73-67 lead with 49 seconds left and from there all the top team in the land could do was foul and try 3-pointers to no avail.
Jump, who was 1-of-3 on 3-pointers in the first half and actually only had six points until an NBA 3-pointer at the third quarter buzzer made the score 45-37. The Panthers were down 39-23 just a few minutes earlier. From there, the 5-foot-11 Jump really got hopping. She hit another NBA trey to open the fourth quarter, Astrom hit a 3-pointer, and then Jump drained another long bomb and it was down to a 50-46 deficit as the worm began to turn with Jones on the bench.
Jump ended up with a game-high 24 points on 6 of 11 from outside the arc, plus nine rebounds playing all 44 minutes of the game. Claros, who also played all 44 minutes, had 20 points and five assists and was adept at breaking the Mitty press.
“It’s a mental thing with my shooting,” Jump remarked. “Once I hit a couple of shots I can feel they’re going in.”
“Gritting it out and not wanting to lose. I could have played all night. Anything to not lose that game,” was Claros answer when asked if she was fatigued playing every minute.
Astrom only had seven points but she had 13 rebounds for a Pinewood team that out-rebounded Mitty 50-45 after getting beat on the boards 44-28 in the CIFCCS Open Division title-game loss.
Prior to the game, Scheppler said one of the keys was 3-point shooting, which is a given for Pinewood, but he also felt in order to win the Panthers had to rebound.
“What was the key to the game? Rebounding,” was Scheppler’s rhetorical answer. “Also, I want to comment on the heart and grit of my team. When you play an elite team like Mitty and things aren’t going your way like in the third quarter you can fold. We were up against it but there was no el foldo tonight.”
Freshman Hunter Hernandez stepped up for Mitty (29-1) with Jones on the bench to score 16 of her team high 18 points after halftime. Despite missing almost half the game and being limited by foul trouble, Jones still had a double-double 17 points and 10 rebounds with four assists. Penn State-bound Karisma Ortiz also had a double-double after finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds with five assists.
“Haley only played 24 minutes and we still went to three overtimes,” said Mitty head coach Sue Phillips. “You have to remember, this team is 29-1 and we beat the top teams in the nation and Pinewood already. Unfortunately it’s not a night when we get a chance to redeem ourselves. But you’ve got to take your hats off to Pinewood, they shot the ball really well, particularly Hannah Jump, and she and Claros never came out.”
Pinewood has now won nine Northern Regional titles, but under the competitive equity formula that’s had them in the Open Division the past four years, it’s the first NorCal Open Division championship for Scheppler and his girls.
“Being a small school and playing a giant, well-coached team like Mitty is always a disadvantage, but our effort and heart, skill, coordination and conditioning can overcome a team like Mitty,” Scheppler remarked. “The basketball gods smiled on us tonight.”
With the win, Pinewood has knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation for the second time in three years after they beat St. Mary’s of Stockton in the 2016 NorCal Open semifinals. The Panthers also complete a week when they not only beat Mitty but they turned the trick again against St. Mary’s and this year the Rams were a nationally-ranked team again that was as high as No. 6 in some rankings.
Now Pinewood has another superstar to face when it plays meet Windward of Los Angeles and junior phenom Charisma Osborne in the Open Division title game at 6:00 pm next Saturday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
“I know it’s (head coach Vanessa) Nygaard’s team but I don’t know much about Windward,” Scheppler said. “I do feel sorry for them if they have to guard us.”
In the SoCal Open Division title game:
Windward (Los Angeles) 61,
Clovis West (Fresno) 50
Considering the defending CIF State Open Division champions needed a last-second shot to defeat Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood in the SoCal Open semifinals, logical thinking would dictate Clovis West of Fresno would need to play a lights-out game to knock off Windward of Los Angeles for an opportunity to win its second consecutive CIF state title in the highest classification. After all, the Wildcats beat the same team, 53-45, in the CIF Southern Section Open Division title game.
Clovis West competed gamely, but the lights out performance did not materialize as Windward, the state’s No. 3 ranked team, used a big third quarter to improve to 5-0 in SoCal regional final appearances.
Clovis West (32-4 and placed at No. 5 in last week’s state rankings) trailed Windward 27-26 at halftime, but was outscored 18-5 in the decisive quarter. With Windward (26-3) leading 45-31 entering the final period, the Eagles started to hit shots, but just couldn’t get the necessary stops to get within true striking range, as the defending open champs fell to last year’s CIF Division I state champs.
Windward is going for bigger hardware this season.
“It’s a big deal to play against them (Clovis West); we had to be prepared for their dribble drive offense and pressing,” said Windward head coach Vanessa Nygaard. “We adjusted to that in the second half. We are happy to begin our spring break in Sacramento.”
Windward took a double-digit lead with 2:30 in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Sela Kay (10 points) to make the score 40-29. A few moments later, Windward’s dynamic Charisma Osborne took a hard spill and went down in throbbing pain with cramping in both calves. With the best player on the floor out, it was perhaps Clovis West’s best chance to make a run.
It didn’t happen. Kamil English stepped up to hit a 3-pointer, as her and Kay showed that this Windward team is far from a one-girl unit. English finished with 12 points and the duo made 3-of-6 3-point shots to uplift their team.
Clovis West picked up its offense in the final period, but couldn’t get the stops necessary as Windward got some uncontested lay-ups after breaking the Eagles’ press. Osborne returned in the final period and finished with game-highs of 22 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
“Charisma was really aggressive going to the basket and it’s real hard for teams to deal with that,” Nygaard said. “In the halftime locker room, we also talked about our press break strategy. I also think our defense was better in the second half.”
Madison Campbell led Clovis West with 18 points. She also collected six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Aari’yana Sanders was the Eagles’ other double-digit scorer with 15 points to go along with eight rebounds.
Windward shot 46 percent from the field, while Clovis West shot 41 percent for the field. Windward had 10 less turnovers (20-10). The Wildcats will now face Pinewood of Los Altos Hills in the CIF Open final after the
Panthers knocked off state and national No. 1 Mitty of San Jose in a NorCal Open final triple-overtime thriller.
The game was a microcosm of Clovis West’s season. It scrapped and clawed but just couldn’t get over the hump against the state’s super elite, as the program fell to 1-5 in SoCal regional final appearances.
“It was a remarkable year…to lose five D1 kids and a JUCO player to graduation, win our 6th straight section and knock off the likes of Mater Dei and Harvard-Westlake,” said head coach Craig Campbell. “It stings right now, but only one team is going to end the season with a win. It’s bittersweet, but some of our inexperience showed tonight, especially in the third quarter.”
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend