Pinewood and O'Dowd equal interesting matchup | March 10, 2017 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 10, 2017

Pinewood and O'Dowd equal interesting matchup

Five local girls teams remain afloat in NorCal tournaments

by Glenn Reeves

Pinewood and Bishop O'Dowd might be located on different sides of the Bay and play in different sections of the CIF but they have plenty of history in the sport of girls basketball.

No. 3 seed Pinewood (24-3) hosts No. 6 O'Dowd (26-4) on Friday at 7 p.m. in the opening round of the eight-team Northern California Open Division playoffs.

"It's great to have it in our gym,'' Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said. "The girls are excited. They play well at home.''

This matchup is a repeat of last year's opening round, a game that Pinewood won 50-45.

Pinewood went 2-0 against O'Dowd last season. But the two girls basketball powers also met early this season at O'Dowd, with Pinewood suffering a 62-49 defeat.

"We didn't shoot well in that game,'' Scheppler said. "We didn't prepare for them. They had a 3-point shooter who wasn't on the team last year.''

Scheppler expects to have point guard Brianna Claros back. She suffered a concussion in the CCS semifinal win over Sacred Heart Cathedral and sat out the CCS final against Mitty.

"We had a spirited practice and Bri came out of it with no symptoms,'' Scheppler said Tuesday. "It will be an interesting matchup with O'Dowd. A key will be if Klara (Astrom) can neutralize the inside and stay out of foul trouble. We need to contain their best player, (Myah) Pace, and force them into situations where they're not getting easy shots.''

The Panthers will be looking for a return to form by leading scorer Hannah Jump. She had a career-high 36 in a CCS Open Division opener against St. Ignatius, but then was held to seven points in the loss to Mitty while being guarded by an athletic 6-1 player on the perimeter.

"Hannah let a couple shot blocks affect her mentality,'' Scheppler said. "We've got to be better defensively and be strong with the ball. Without Bri against Mitty we lacked our systemic flow.''

Pinewood, like in most matchups against other elite teams, will be at a disadvantage in terms of size.

"They killed us on the boards in that first game,'' Scheppler said. "We've got to rebound and minimize second shots. They're a physical team. They don't have 25 set out of bounds plays like Mitty. Most of what they do relies on their strength, length and athleticism.''

In comparing how the two teams did against common opponents, O'Dowd lost to Mitty twice, by 26 and 18 points. Pinewood lost once by eight, and that was without Claros. O'Dowd also lost to Salesian twice, by one and by four. Pinewood beat Salesian by 12. O'Dowd beat Valley Christian by 16, a team Pinewood beat by 13. But O'Dowd beat Highlands Ranch of Colorado by seven. Pinewood lost by one to that team in a season-opening tournament in San Diego.

CCS Division I

Top-seeded Menlo-Atherton (29-2) hosts No. 9 Folsom, a 68-50 winner over No. 8 Castro Valley, on Saturday at 6 p.m.

M-A's twin towers -- Greer Hoyem and Ofa Sili -- had their way against McClymonds. The Bears jumped out to a 15-2 lead to start the game with Hoyem scoring 12 of those points and Sili hitting a 3-pointer.

Hoyem finished with 27 points despite not playing at all in the fourth quarter. In addition to her dominance in the low post, she also did a nice job of running the court.

"She always had the ability to run the court,'' M-A coach Markisha Coleman said of Hoyem. "The guards did a nice job of getting her the ball.''

Sili scored 15 in the first half and finished with 17. She made two 3-pointers.

"She is shooting the 3-pointer a lot better this season,'' Coleman said. "She has gotten more confident with that shot. It's great having a big girl who can go outside and hit that shot.''

Folsom (26-4) was the No. 5 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section, losing to No. 4 Lincoln-Stockton in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs are 18-4 against teams that reached the postseason. M-A is 23-2 in such games.

Palo Alto (22-3) went to Stockton without leading scorer Carly Leong, who took a blow to the head in Saturday's CCS championship game and started experiencing concussion symptoms on Sunday.

The Vikings, who were also without backup guard Jackie Moore, had their season come to an end in a 48-41 defeat.

They trailed early but battled back to tie, 36-36. Lincoln took a 42-39 lead when an intentional foul was called on Palo Alto that pretty much decided the game.

"The girls played as hard as they could, they just ran out of gas,'' Palo Alto coach Scott Peters said. "(Lincoln) box-and-one'd Lauren (Koyama). We did the best we could under the circumstances.''

The Vikings end the season ranked fifth in the state in 3-pointers made, second in 3-pointers attempted, and third in the state in 3-pointers per game (9.5). That's also sixth in the nation.

CCS Division IV

On the surface, No. 6 seed Sacred Heart Prep (15-13) appears to be the underdog against No. 3 seed Foothill of Sacramento (27-5).

The Gators, though, may be feeling a little better about themselves after rebounding from an ugly loss to Half Moon Bay in the CCS Division IV final to beat Union Mine, 51-30.

Foothill also played Union Mine, beating the Diamondbacks, 70-49, in early January.

If they gain some momentum in this one, the Gators can surprise people. A lot of that momentum will be dictated by freshmen Denise Stine, who can ramp up a stagnant offense just by setting foot om the court, and Charlotte Levison, who could carry the scoring load should she happen to get into a rhythm.

The key with Levison, 13 points in the win over the Diamondbacks, is how she responds to her first shot. If its good, she's probably locked in. If it's not, she tends to fight herself.

The only two seniors, Natalie Zimits and Lagi Pakola, can make a difference without scoring. When Zimits gets going on the boards, she'll fight for every rebound.

Pakola showed an ability to both spark the offense and play like a wizard on defense.

There are three other players to watch, who can all be hot or cold: juniors Tatum Angotti and Grace Battles, who scored 16 against Union Mine, and sophomore Zoe Zaharias.

CCS Division V

Eastside College Prep junior point guard Kayla Tahaafe can walk on a basketball court and instantly set the tone for a particular game.

Panthers' coach Donovan Blythe said she's one of the top guards in the state regardless of division and he has the evidence.

Tahaafe, who was limited to six points in about 16 minutes of Eastside's 73-15 NorCal victory over Ripon Christian on Wednesday night, is the team leader in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.

How many other point guards, especially at the elite level, can make the same claim?

"If I'm a Division I (college) coach I'd be knocking down the door to get a look at the kid," Blythe said. "She's a winner."

Blythe has coached at the junior college level and sent other players to NCAA Division I programs, so he has credibility in talking about Tahaafe, one of two juniors on an Eastside roster that lacks seniors.

Tahaafe and Ra'Anaa Bey (17 points against Ripon) are making their third trip through the CCS and NorCal playoffs, ending up in the state final on both occasions.

"We're going up the hill again but we have a different path to pave," Blythe said. "We can't rely on the same path. It's a new year and it starts all over again."

One nice thing is having Tahaafe leading the way.

"She's my leader," Blythe said of the 5-7 guard. "She's an extension of me on the floor. She's a point guard who has to rebound, play defense, score and distribute the ball. It's a big job and she does it well."

The top-seeded Panthers (19-8) host Urban-San Francisco on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Blues (14-17) advanced after upsetting 20-game winner Durham on Wednesday.

Urban and Eastside have four common opponents. Urban lost to Redwood, Windsor, South San Francisco, by 30, and Sacred Heart Prep. Eastside beat Redwood, Windsor, Sacred Heart Prep (twice) and fell to South San Francisco by three.

No. 2 seed Priory (19-9) humbled Hamilton, 67-19, in a first-round contest on Wednesday and hosts No. 7 Capital Christian (22-9) at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Eastside College Prep and Priory could be heading on a collision course. If the seeds hold, the two West Bay Athletic League teams would meet in the regional final on March 18.

The Braves (16-12) committed 15 turnovers in the first period, 32 for the game, as the Panthers' defense had itself a night.

Hamilton, located near Chico, scored just five field goals for the game. Priory coach Buck Matthews took out his starters early in the third period. Even so, the Braves scored just six points in the second half.

"It's about time," Matthews said. "That wasn't there the last two performances. Everybody flying around, sharing the ball. Everyone was coming together and this is the right time to do it."

Guard Tatiana Reese led the charge, scoring 15 points and registering seven steals. Reese also shined as a passer, peeling off some nice assists.

"I'm excited to be playing in NorCals," Reese said. "Our dream is to make it to state."

Sam McCabe had six of her 10 points in the second period as the Panthers scored 48 points in the first half, a 96-point pace.

Gabby Ruiz stole the ball and scored midway through the second period. Reese lobbed a pass to Lane for a bucket. Reese, on the run, bounced a pass to McCabe for another bucket as the rout continued.

"I told Tatiana it's more than just making baskets," Matthews said. "It's more about getting everyone else involved. The last five games, her points have gone down, but her assists have gone up. That's how you become a good basketball player."

The Panthers are finally at full-strength, having had Lane, Reese and Ruiz injured at different periods of the season.

"We played a tough schedule," Reese said. "We were happy to play in higher leagues. That got us ready for NorCals."

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