Pinewood girls are a constantly evolving basketball team

Pinewood had a memorable postseason run last year, traveling to Stockton to knock off the nation’s top-ranked team and advancing to the Northern California Open Division final.

Flash forward to the present. After a 70-30 win Thursday at Priory to conclude the regular season, Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler was asked how the current team compares with last years':

“We’re basically a better team,’’ Scheppler said. “We have a nice rotation.’’

The post-season is about to begin. Pinewood will find out Sunday where it is seeded (almost surely No. 2 behind Mitty, the top-ranked team in the state) in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs.

“We can’t wait,’’ Scheppler said.

Last year Pinewood was without sophomore point guard Brianna Claros, who went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Mikaela Topper filled in admirably and Pinewood shocked the girls' basketball cognoscenti with the win over St. Mary’s of Stockton.

This year, the Panthers are without Erin Poindexter-McHan, who hit six 3-pointers in that historic upset over St. Mary’s, to another season-ending knee injury.

And yet Pinewood has shown its resilience again, improving to 22-2 overall and 10-0 in the West Bay Athletic League with the blowout win over a Priory team that is ranked No. 3 in the state in Division V (behind Pinewood and Eastside Prep) by MaxPreps.

“We miss Erin’s dead-eye shooting,’’ Scheppler said.

With Claros healthy and running the show at point guard, Topper has moved over to start at shooting guard. She went off for a game-high 23 points against Priory. Having two ball-handling guards in the backcourt makes it very difficult to press Pinewood.

“Everyone on the court can handle the ball,’’ said Topper, also mentioning third guard Akayla Hackson. “Having Bri at point guard creating amazing plays for everyone, I think we’re a better team than last year. We have very high hopes.’’

Hannah Jump and Klara Astrom had 13 points apiece for Pinewood, which led 38-15 at halftime and 67-22 heading into the fourth quarter against a Priory team that was without 6-foot-4 center Ila Lane.

A running clock was employed in the fourth quarter. Tatiana Reese scored 12 for Priory (15-9, 5-5).

Playing Pinewood and Eastside twice each in league has benefited Priory. If both Pinewood and Eastside are selected for the CCS Open, Priory will have the inside track for a CCS Division V championship.

“We’re battle-tested,’’ Priory coach Buck Matthews said.

M-A 70, Jefferson 27

Menlo-Atherton began its pursuit of a third straight PAL title with a victory at home over Jefferson, 70-27, Thursday.

The Bears started in their full-court press and raced to a 23-10 first-quarter advantage a Greer Hoyem scored nine points in the first eight minutes.

Hoyem led the Bears with 23, Carly McLanahan added 14 and Ofa Sili finished with 12.

M-A meets Oceana, the PAL North 2nd seed, in a semifinal game at Hillsdale High School at 6 pm Friday.

Castilleja 58, Mercy-Burlingame 35

Katie Fearon scored 16 points, one of three players to reach double figures in points, to lead the Gators (11-12, 5-6) past the Crusaders.

Sammy Wong added 13 points and Lauren Sibley added 10 for Castilleja, which visits Norte Dame-San Jose for a 6:30 p.m. game Friday.

Boys basketball

Menlo-Atherton beat visiting El Camino, 63-23, in the first round of the PAL tournament on Thursday. The Bears (21-4) play Jefferson at 4:30 p.m. in a semifinal game at Hillsdale High.

Nico Arslander scored 12 points, Emmanuel Ajanaku-Makun added 11 and Priory beat host Eastside College Prep, 58-44, in its WBAL finale.

Matt Boyle added 10 points for the Panthers (19-5, 11-3), who finished second to Menlo School.

Isiah East led Eastside College Prep (17-7, 8-6) with 15 points. ECP finished in a third-place tie with The King's Academy.

Pinewood (14-10, 7-7) toppled visiting Harker, 65-37, and WBAL champion Menlo (16-7, 13-1) toppled host Crystal Springs, 77-40.


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