A couple minutes into the third quarter it looked like Pinewood had the game under control. The Panthers led Salesian 31-20 and the only question seemed to be how much they would win by.
But then it all changed in a hurry. Salesian started hitting shots and Pinewood went cold. Salesian went from 11 points down to 11 points ahead and withstood a late Pinewood rally to escape with a 53-51 win in a matchup of two of the top girls basketball teams in the state Thursday night at Pinewood.
“That was a great girls basketball game,’’ Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said.
Pinewood, ranked No. 3 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports in its preseason rankings, suffered its first loss after going 4-0 at the Sweet 16 Shootout at LaJolla Country Day in San Diego. Salesian (2-0), the preseason No. 4-ranked team, turned the game around with a 29-7 run over the third and fourth quarters.
“We couldn’t finish anything to save our lives,’’ Scheppler said. “It’s not like we didn’t have chances.’’
Pinewood, which is known for its 3-point shooting prowess, made only four shots from behind the arc. Salesian, which had a huge size advantage led by 6-5 center Angel Jackson, would have been expected to outscore the Panthers around the basket. Not from the perimeter. But the Pride made five 3-pointers.
“They’re real physical and took us out of what we wanted to do,’’ Scheppler said. “We have to get a little tougher. We had a bad stretch for 10 minutes, the last six minutes of the third quarter and the first four of the fourth quarter. We couldn’t get anything to fall. We got a little timid.’’
Klara Astrom scored 25 of Pinewood’s 51 points. Hannah Jump, who came in averaging 19.0, scored nine points in the first half but managed only three free throws in the second half.
“She’s such a deadly shooter,’’ Salesian coach Stephen Pezzola said. “We made sure to get out on her at the 3-point line, not go for her first move and know where she was at all times. Pinewood is a great team. They play so hard. I love playing them.’’
Salesian took its biggest lead at 49-38 after a 3-pointer by Makayla Edwards, who had a team-high 15 points.
Astrom initiated the Pinewood desperation rally by sinking two free throws with 3:14 left, and then scored off a steal. Kaitlyn Leung made one foul shot and Astrom scored on a drive to make it 49-45 with 1:01 left
After a Salesian basket Jump sank two free throws and Brianna Claros scored on a drive to bring Pinewood within 51-49 with 20.9 seconds left.
But Salesian’s Taisia Fleming made two foul shots to put the Pride back up by four and render a bucket by Claros just before the buzzer inconsequential.
“This is why I schedule games like this early in the season,’’ Scheppler said. “It’s all about growth. We made some progress despite losing the game. But we’ve got to get better.’’
Pinewood hosts another Northern California power, Bishop O’Dowd, on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.