Los Altos Hills school wins Platinum Division at the West Coast Jamboree with a slug-it-out victory over Salesian of Richmond in title game matchup of two state top 10 squads. The elite division at one of the state’s top tournaments also concluded on Saturday with state No. 9 Carondelet of Concord taking third-place and with state No. 3 Etiwanda finishing in fifth.
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They’re from a school with 8-man football and started out winning CIF state titles in the smallest division. But the Pinewood of Los Altos Hills girls basketball team is getting to be as big-time as any school of 3,000 or 4,000 students can get.
The Panthers took another step upward on Saturday night at College Park of Pleasant Hill when they won the Platinum Division championship of the West Coast Jamboree with a 47-37 triumph over Salesian of Richmond.
Entering the three-day tourney, which brings together more than 150 teams divided into a myriad of eight-team brackets spread out across gyms throughout Contra Costa County, the Platinum Division boasted of having five of the top 13 teams in the Cal-Hi Sports State Top 20. That Pinewood ended on top was not an upset since the Panthers came in at No. 2. It still was a major achievement to win it since it was Pinewood’s first appearance at the Jamboree and the field also included No. 3 Etiwanda, No. 9 Carondelet of Concord, No. 10 Salesian and No. 13 Clovis North of Fresno. Rounding out the bracket were No. 18 Alemany of Mission Hills and unranked State Top 20 bubble teams Sacramento and Troy of Fullerton.
The manner in which the Panthers (10-0) won in their last two games of the tournament also shows that although prolific three-point shooting is what put the program on the statewide map, it’s their ability to win games of any style that is becoming more of a trademark.
After only allowing seven points in the second half of a 55-30 semifinal victory on Friday night over Sacramento (which began the tourney on Thursday with an upset of Etiwanda), Pinewood had to break a 35-35 tie early in the fourth quarter to get past Salesian.
It was the type of game that one would assume would provide a huge advantage to the Pride, who have 6-foot-5 USC-bound Angel Jackson dominating in the middle. But the Panthers countered with clutch three-pointers and an ability to get scoring spurts from anyone on the floor.
“When people think of us, they think of the threes, blah, blah, blah,” said longtime Pinewood head coach Doc Scheppler. “But basketball people who know us know that our defense is solid.
“You look at the last four teams we’ve played and we’ve allowed 27, 34, 30 last night and 37 tonight. That’s pretty good. And the pace of those games were quick. It’s not like both teams were just walking it up the floor.”
A mini-spurt in the second quarter gave Pinewood a 20-15 lead at halftime. It was 20-19 in the third quarter when senior guard Kaitlyn Leung started heating up. She had no points in the first half, but then during one stretch of the third quarter she scored nine points in a row for a 30-23 lead.
Salesian (7-5) was able to keep the score close the rest of the period and only trailed 32-31 heading into the final quarter. A three-pointer by Courtney Thompson gave Pinewood a 38-35 lead and then with 58 seconds left another three-pointer, this one from senior Klara Astrom, gave the Panthers a 41-37 advantage. They then hit their free throws down the stretch to account for the final margin.
“Yes, I definitely have had a stretch like that before,” said Leung, who ended with 12 points (after hitting a three-pointer in the fourth quarter). “But sometimes it’s someone else who’s doing that. I’m just fine whoever it is.”
Jackson led Salesian scorers with 14 points. She also had at least 10 rebounds and at least five blocked shots. Salesian also has to be commended for playing as well as it did against Pinewood after one of its best players, senior guard Nia Chinn, was lost to a knee injury the night before in a 44-39 win against Carondelet that avenged an earlier loss to the Cougars.
All Chinn could do in this game was sit on the bench with an ice pack still on her knee. For what she did in the team’s two earlier wins (the Pride defeated Troy of Fullerton in its first game), however, she was still presented with the West Coast Jamboree’s Jim Capoot Memorial Award, which is named in honor of a fallen police officer who also was a girls basketball coach at Vallejo.
With Pinewood’s Stanford-bound Hannah Jump facing concentrated defense, she was only able to muster six points on the night. Picking up the slack was sophomore Annika Decker, who tied Jackson for game-high honors with 14 points. Jump was still selected as the MVP of the Platinum Division based on her totals from the three games combined.
“We’re 10-0 right now and that’s great,” Scheppler said. “We’ve played well in games like this and there’s been some games where it was Hannah’s time to shine. Even I under-estimate us. I’ll look out there and think, ‘How are we going to play (that team)?’ And then a few minutes later it’ll be, ‘Oh yeah, we are that good.’”
With a trip to last year’s CIF Open Division state finals (lost to Windward of Los Angeles), however, it’s doubtful not too many teams will be under-estimating the Panthers any time soon.
Third Place Game:
Carondelet (Concord) 57,
After not being able to defeat Salesian for a second time in the semifinals, the Cougars rallied from a 10-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter for a comeback win against the Dragons.
With the score 54-49, Sacramento didn’t add any more points in the game’s final two minutes. Carondelet (10-2) took its first lead at 55-54 on a free throw with 1:24 left by junior point guard Jayme Blackard. The Dragons still trailed by only one with less than 30 seconds remaining but two open shots were missed. Two final free throws by Ali Bamberger of the Cougars simply added two more points to the final score.
“We’ve got a team of veterans and a core group with a lot of experience,” said first-year Carondelet head coach Michael Morris. “We just cleaned a few things up and came back stop by stop.
“After the first third of the season, I’d say we’re about 85 percent of where we should be. Once we can get locked in defensively, we’ll be there.”
Bamberger, signed by Washington and a returning all-state pick, led all scorers with 18 points. Seniors Emily Howie and Tatyana Modawar also reached double figures for Carondelet with 10 points each.
For the Dragons, UC-Santa Barbara commit Ryanne Walters ran the offense and defense and had nine points. Teammates Muirae Gomez and Rebekah Brown had more points with 14 and 12, respectively.
Sacramento (7-5) still made an impression at the Jamboree. Coming off of a 1-3 showing in its division at the Nike Tournament of Champions, the close loss to Carondelet combined with a loss to Pinewood in which the Dragons were only down by five at half and then the opening round win against Etiwanda showed the Dragons may be one of the top teams in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section.
Fifth Place Game:
Etiwanda 60, Clovis North (Fresno) 52
Both head coaches — Stan Delus of the Eagles and Heather Long of the Broncos — were aware that their matchup could have been between two teams that may be in this year’s CIF Southern California Open Division playoffs. Delus can say that because of recent history and the fact that his girls already have a win over highly ranked Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Long’s team, even with another second-place finish in the CIF Central Section Division I playoffs behind perennial power Clovis West, could be headed there again as well (unless the CIF finally goes beyond four teams from the CIF Southern Section for the SoCal Open Division).
Etiwanda (11-2) built a 33-24 halftime lead and was still up 46-39 entering the fourth quarter. Clovis North’s closest push was to get the score to 46-43 and then 50-46, but the Broncos (12-3) had a hard time matching the Eagles’ athleticism, depth and occasional clutch shooting.
Senior forward Kimora Sykes and junior center Nnenna Orji led Etiwanda with 14 points apiece. Savanna Tucker and Rowan Hein, both juniors, had 16 and 14 points, respectively, for Clovis North. Senior guard Evanne Turner of Etiwanda also looked like one of the top players in the bracket.
“We knew it was going to be tough up here,” said Delus when asked if he thought the loss to Sacramento was just one of those nights. “But with us being the caliber of team that we are, we wanted to come up here and make sure we got a sense of who we are. We saw a lot of different type of teams, different style of teams. This was good team we just played.”
There was some good news for Clovis North when it was learned that a team the Broncos beat earlier this season, Heritage of Brentwood, improved to 9-1 by winning the title in a different division of the West Coast Jamboree over state-ranked St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Seventh Place Game:
Troy (Fullerton) 60, Alemany (Mission Hills) 40
In the first game of the day at College Park, one of the top 10 teams from Orange County rolled over one of the top 10 from the San Fernando Valley/Ventura County region. Head coach Roger Anderson’s girls from Troy improved to 9-6 and plays next on Jan. 3 at the Legacy Tournament against Westchester of Los Angeles. Alemany fell to 9-6 and will play next on Jan. 5 at the Matt Denning Classic in Santa Ana against Etiwanda.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He also is author of “High School Football In California,” which was No. 1 on Amazon.com’s list of bestsellers in the teen/young adult football category for several weeks after it was released. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports