The West Bay Athletic League rivals with identical mascots will meet for a fourth time this season in Saturday's CIF Northern California Division V championship game at American Canyon High at 10 a.m. The winner will advance to the state title game the following Friday morning, at the same early time, at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Thus, only one of these teams will reach their goal this weekend.
Top-seeded Eastside Prep (23-8) has never played for a state title. Third-seeded Pinewood (23-7) has played in six of them, winning five times.
Eastside Prep last topped Pinewood, 54-30, in the WBAL playoff final on Feb. 16 and have won all three meetings by an average score of 50-34.
The NorCal finals will be the first meeting of two Central Coast Section teams since 2006, when Pinewood beat Sacred Heart Prep.
"Where we're going Saturday, we've been there," said Eastside Prep head coach Donovan Blythe. "We were there last year and this year we need to take it further."
The Panthers dropped a 55-38 decision to Brookside Christian in last year's NorCal Division V final in addition to losing NorCal finals in 2008 and 2003. Brookside played in the new Open Division this season — losing in the first round of NorCals — opening the door for a possible Eastside Prep trip to the state finals.
Senior forward Hashima Carothers helped the Panthers take a step closer to their dream by scoring 12 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in a 44-22 NorCal Division V semifinal victory over visiting International of San Francisco (30-5) on Tuesday evening.
Sophomore Destiny Graham helped get Eastside going when she hit a turnaround shot as time expired in the first quarter to put the Panthers up, 8-4. She finished with eight points, seven rebounds and five blocks.
Junior guard Charmaine Bradford maintained the momentum and got the crowd into it when she hit a corner jumper with 20 seconds left in the second quarter to put Eastside up 20-12 at the end of the first half. Bradford finished with 12 points, five assists and no turnovers from her point-guard position.
The Panthers came out aggressively in the third quarter as they went on a 12-0 run, led by Bradford and junior Alexus Simon. The Jaguars couldn't do anything against the sturdy Panthers' defense, going 0-for-8 from the field while scoring only three points in the quarter. Eastside Prep forced 19 turnovers.
"We turned our defense up a lot tonight," said Carothers, who also had two blocks. "We were a little rusty the game before so we knew we had to step it up tonight. Defense got us the win."
Simon put the game out of reach for the Panthers when she scored on a put-back layup in the fourth quarter to put her team up, 37-17. She finished with 10 points and seven boards.
Eastside Prep now turns its attention to Pinewood, which lost each of the three games to Eastside this season by an average of 16 points.
"This is going to be our fourth time playing Pinewood," said Blythe. "We just have to be ready to go."
You can bet Pinewood will be ready to go after slogging its way to a 37-30 semifinal victory over No. 2 and host Valley Christian-Dublin (31-3).
Defense and rebounding won it for coach Doc Scheppler's team while junior Leanna Bade led the offense with 11 points.
The game was tied at 26 with about three minutes to play when Angelina Mapa, Pinewood's only senior, banked in a three-pointer. Sophomore point guard Marissa Hing then wrapped things up with four free throws in the final minute. Hing finished with nine points while freshman Chloe Eackles had seven points and nine rebounds.
For Pinewood to have any chance against Eastside Prep, it needs to shoot better than the 20 percent (10 of 49) against VC-Dublin. That included a 4-of-27 effort from three-point range.
The Pinewood-Eastside Prep winner will face either No. 1 Horizon Christian (25-7) or No. 2 Sierra Canyon (22-9) for the state title.
Division IV girls
In the NorCal Division IV semifinals, Menlo School senior Drew Edelman scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds but it wasn't enough as the No. 5-seeded Knights (22-10) dropped a 61-54 decision to No. 1 Salesian of Richmond (28-6) at St. Mary's College in Moraga.
Kaelen Dunn added 14 points in her final game while fellow senior Lauren Lete bowed out with six points five assists, six rebounds and three steals. Junior Maddy Price added 11 points and seven rebounds as Menlo out-rebounded Salesian, 31-20.
The difference in the game, however, was Salesian's 5-foot-11 junior Mariya Moore, who scored 28 points with 10 rebounds, eight steals and four assists.
The game was close throughout until Salesian went on a 9-0 run to take a 45-37 lead in the third quarter.
Boys' Division IV
No. 6-seeded Menlo School wrapped up a 21-8 season following a 52-45 loss to No. 3 and host Marin Catholic (25-8) last Saturday night in the quarterfinals. The Knights wiped out a 14-point halftime deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but Marin Catholic outscored Menlo 11-2 over the final 5:46 to secure the victory. Wes Miller led Menlo with 14 points while Bobby Roth and Ryan Young each tallied nine points.