Pinewood hosted a NorCal Division V doubleheader on Thursday night, with the No. 1 girls (24-5) playing No. 8 Rincon Valley Christian (26-6) with the No. 2 boys (22-5) following against No. 7 Bradshaw Christian.
Both Pinewood teams needed a victory in order to host another doubleheader on Saturday. The girls likely would face No. 5 Bradshaw Christian at 6 p.m., with the boys most likely taking on No. 3 University (San Francisco) at 7:30 p.m.
If either of the two Pinewood teams is favored, it would be Scheppler's girls. They are the defending Division V state champions and are currently ranked No. 1 in the state by MaxPreps.
Nonetheless, nothing is a given at this point in the season.
"Every game is a focus point for us," said Scheppler, who figured Bradshaw Christian would be a likely opponent. In the other half of the bracket, Scheppler sees No. 2 Eastside Prep hosting No. 3 St. Joseph-Notre Dame in the other semifinal (at 7 p.m.).
"Then, who knows?" Scheppler said of the brackets. "We're happy to have them (Bradshaw Christian) in our gym. This will be there third game this week, and they traveled to (No. 4) Hamilton City on Thursday, not a comfy trip, and they get one day to prepare for us, not an easy thing to accomplish."
While Pinewood won its 13th Central Coast Section title in 14 years last Saturday and is favored to reach the NorCal finals on March 19 at Folsom High near Sacramento, the Panthers will have to be more than just senior Hailie Eackles the rest of the way.
Eackles poured in 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a 45-44 victory over Eastside Prep in the section title game, but the rest of the team combined for only 19 points and 16 boards.
"Yes, they are struggling with their mentality and some with mechanics as shooters," said Scheppler, "but we've ironed them out and are ready. She (Eackles) has carried us for 10-12 games. We need to get some scoring from others and we will. They are too good not to."
Of the five local prep basketball teams that took the floor on Thursday night, only one was stepping into unknown territory — the Palo Alto girls.
Prior to last weekend, the Vikings (22-4) had never played in a CCS title game. Now, they have their first section championship tucked away and were looking for their first-ever victory in NorCals against No. 5 Lincoln of Stockton.
The Paly-Lincoln winner will be rewarded with a semifinal game Saturday at No. 1 Berkeley.
Paly coach said just playing this deep into the season for the first time ever will provide his returning players with invaluable experience for next season.
"If you're a Mitty or Pinewood, you get an extra month of practice (each season)," Peters pointed out. "That's how you improve."
Peters will lose only two senior starters — Sydney Davis and Katerina Peterson — off this team, along with senior reserves Mariah Philips and Mary Albertolle. Everyone else will return with more experience and confidence after putting the Vikings on the basketball map.
Teamwork made all the difference this season for Palo Alto, plus the arrival Davis and 6-foot-2 sophomore Josie Butler. Suddenly, Peters had the talent and depth to substitute often and play all-out aggressive defense.
"Last year we tried to play like this, but I realized we didn't have the players that could do it," Peters said. "We didn't have 10 players to do this kind of pressing."
This season, Peters planned to play zone defense and apply full-court pressure. When Paly defeated visiting Gunn in the teams' first meeting, however, the Vikings were able to effectively press man-to-man for the first time.
"When we pressured them, it gave the girls confidence that we they could do it," Peters said. "When they beat Gunn, it gave them the psychological belief that we could play that way and be successful.
"I knew we had the talent, and that I couldn't mess it up. We just had to play hard and be a team. We struggled with that a little last year. This year, they became a team . . . We don't have captains on the team because we want everyone to be a leader."
Prior to the CCS playoffs, Peters said: "I think the girls have done a great job this year of preparing to play each opponent and not taking teams for granted. We always say before every game: 'This is the most important game of the year.' The girls have bought into this and this has helped our focus throughout the year."
The Gunn girls and Mid-Peninsula boys saw their respective seasons end on Tuesday night. The No. 7 Titans (19-7) dropped a 50-49 Division I opener to No. 10 Armijo of Fairfield (25-6) and No. 8 Mid-Peninsula (21-4) is gone in Division V following a 54-46 loss to No. 9 Ripon Christian (25-6).
The Gunn girls were hoping to advance in the NorCal playoffs for only the second time in school history — the first was in 2009 — and appeared in good shape to do so after getting out to a 17-6 lead in the first quarter. The Titans, however, trailed by 46-36 with five minutes remaining in the game before rallying.
Gunn went on a 13-2 run to retake the lead when sophomore Claire Klausner made a layup with 1:10 left in the game. The Titans, however, couldn't hold on and ended up losing when Armijo's Marshanique Hall made two free throws with 21 seconds left to put the Indians up 50-49 for the final score.
"It's always tough for the season to end," said Gunn coach Sarah Stapp. "But we have a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to. With everybody coming back, and people coming back from injuries, we should be deeper and stronger and have another great year."
Mid-Peninsula coach Curtis Haggins had similar feelings, but he won't have everyone returning like Stapp. In fact, the Dragons lose all but two players.
"I never know what's going to happen the next year," Haggins said. "I'll figure something out."
In the meantime, Haggins and assistant Bruce Powell will enjoy what their team accomplished this season — reaching a Central Coast Section championship game and advancing to NorCals for the first time in school history.
While the Dragons were listed as the home team, the game was played at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco. Nonetheless, a large group of Mid-Peninsula fans made the trip.
"We probably had 100 people there and we only have something like 138 in the school," Haggins said. "We had a Dragon mascot there . . . this was bigger than basketball."
While Mid-Peninsula came in with an explosive offense that featured senior Lydell Cardwell, who was averaging 24.7 points a game, nothing worked for the Dragons.
"We had a game that we couldn't afford to have at this time of year," Haggins said. "The effort wasn't there. I'm disappointed, but I'm not upset."
Cardwell, who scored 66 points in his final two CCS games, had only two points in the first half as Mid-Peninsula fell behind by 27-18. The Dragons did get to within 35-34 in the second half before Ripon Christian pulled away.
For results of Thursday night's NorCal quarterfinals, go to www.pasportsonline.com
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