"We're looking to win CCS,'' said Pinewood senior Klara Astrom after scoring 25 points in an 80-43 win over Valley Christian in the CCS semifinals Wednesday. "They've done it for three years now. We'll see. They're great competitors and we're great competitors. It depends on who brings their game and who hits their shots.''
Mitty is led by senior Haley Jones, considered the nation's top prep female player, a threat to get a triple-double every time she steps on the court.
Pinewood senior Hannah Jump, also among the top prospects in the nation, has played with Jones on the club level and they will be teammates again next year at Stanford. If Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer didn't have to coach her own game Friday night, she'd likely be sitting courtside at Santa Clara, as she was Wednesday for the semifinals at Piedmont Hills.
The CCS girls basketball championships began in 1977, so long ago that Peterson beat Camden -- two schools that long ago ceased to exist -- in the final.
Mitty won its first CCS championship in 1985 with current coach Sue Phillips as the point guard. That started an incredible run of 29 consecutive CCS championship game appearances for the Monarchs.
Pinewood is making its 22nd CCS championship game appearance since Doc Scheppler took over in 1995.
There are other sub-plots scattered throughout the meeting of two of the top basketball minds this side of Steve Kerr (Mike Montgomery has retired). Let's just say this will be interesting.
That's because it's playoff time, the time coaches and players obsessed with attempting to refine their craft have been waiting for.
"We're just excited this week is finally here,'' Scheppler said. "This is why you do all the stuff, why you put in all the work, so you can be at your best when you play these games.''
No. 2 Pinewood played at a very high offensive level in the win over Valley Christian, using a 24-0 run to take a 47-20 lead at halftime.
"That was our best offensive show of the year in terms of efficiency and finishing at the rim,'' Scheppler said. "And when we didn't get a good look at a 3 we'd get the offensive rebound.''
No. 1 Mitty (24-2) took care of No. 4 St, Ignatius, 78-51 in Wednesday's other semifinal. Pinewood (24-2) defeated St. Francis 61-39 in the quarterfinals.
"The coaching cliche is always to take one game at a time,'' Scheppler said. "But that doesn't mean you can't work on the skills your girls will have to have against Mitty and other elite teams, handling the ball, handling pressure, handling double teams. We've been preparing all year to play Mitty again.''
Jump scored 22 points against Valley Christian and led the team with 11 rebounds. Trinity Copeland had eight rebounds and Astrom six. Pinewood had 15 offensive rebounds.
"We're going to need that Friday,'' Scheppler said. "If we do that against Mitty we're going to win.''
Jones presents all sorts of problems for every team Mitty plays, Pinewood included.
"It's not so much their half-court sets that creates issues as it is their offensive rebounds and their style of play that creates easy baskets,'' Scheppler said.
The popular perception of Pinewood is, "all they do is shoot 3s.''
Not exactly. Scheppler also spends plenty of time on defense.
Pinewood got very few open looks at 3-pointers against Mitty in last year's NorCal Open final, but won the game by hanging around in a defensive slugfest until Mitty ran out of gas in the third overtime period.
"We're more conservative on defense than many teams we play,'' Scheppler said. "We play man. We play good man, fundamentally-sound man, pointing toward getting better and better -- usually with our backs against the wall.''
He was still ruminating on how Eastside Prep scored 39 points in the first half on Pinewood's senior night.
"They gave us everything they had and we had to dig down deep,'' Scheppler said. "They hit eight 3s in the first half. It's not like we were playing terrible, but we weren't laser-focused like we'll need to be to beat the top teams.''
Pinewood outscored Eastside 40-13 in the second half and won 79-52 And the theme song for this post-season has defense in the main bar.
"It's D we're playing, not 3s we're raining,'' Scheppler rhymed.
It's been a special four years for Pinewood as the program elevated from Division V small-school power to the highest level of high school girls basketball, the California Open Division.
Jump and Astrom were freshmen starters on the 2016 team that knocked off St, Mary's of Stockton, another undefeated team ranked No. 1 in the nation, in the NorCal Open semifinals, before losing in the NorCal final to a Miramonte team that featured Sabrina Ionescu, considered the favorite for National Player of the Year with Oregon.
Jump and Astrom were juniors last year when Pinewood took it a step further, outlasting Mitty in that epic triple-overtime NorCal final before losing to Windward in the state Open Division championship game.
And now the clock is ticking down on their final games in a Pinewood uniform. It's not too difficult to figure how they'd like this season to play out. They'd like to help take Pinewood that one final step, one win further than it's ever gone before.
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