It’s no secret that, under head coach Doc Scheppler, the Pinewood girls basketball team has been one of the top teams in the nation for years, but something has changed this season. With a 24-1 overall record, high school sports platforms are calling this year’s team the best one yet, and as the girls advance to the Central Coast Section playoff finals this Friday against No. 1 team in the nation Archbishop Mitty, there seems to be no end in sight as to how far they’ll go.
“When [the girls] lock in, it’s something to behold,” Scheppler said. “They love playing big games. They love playing in an atmosphere, and it just heightens their focus.”
Currently ranked fourth in the nation according to MaxPreps, one might say that the team’s secret to success is based around a few individual players upon first glance. Senior Brianna Claros is an offensive force to be reckoned with in each game, pushing the ball down the court at rapid speed as she leads the Panthers through fast breaks and quick-paced plays. Claros has not lost a single league game in her four years on the team and will be continuing her basketball career next year at the University of California San Diego. Junior Hannah Jump, whom Scheppler has nicknamed “The Best Shooter in America,” averages over 16 points a game and has recently committed to play at Stanford University. But when it comes time to step on the court, every single game is a team effort.
“Whatever [the other team] takes away, we have an answer for,” Scheppler said. “That’s one of the strengths of our team: we have a lot of ways to score. [We’re not just] a team that has Hannah Jump or shoots a lot of threes. We can get to the basket and finish plays.”
Pinewood has been notorious for their high three-point percentage for years. With their average currently resting at 35 percent, it seems like the Panthers make local news every other game based on how many threes they drain. However, the key to running an offense as good as Pinewood’s is conducting fast-paced plays, which Pinewood consistently executes with fast passes that zoom across the court as each player looks to create an open shot opportunity for their teammates. With a high caliber team like Pinewood’s, every single player must be ready to score. At six feet exactly, freshman Olivia Williams is Pinewood’s tallest player and is a key force in the post. Junior Klara Astrom is one of the team’s top shooters, averaging 15 points per game. Freshman Courtni Thompson has worked her way up to the starting five, racking up steals, assists, and shots from inside and outside the key in each game. The beauty of Pinewood’s offense is that it doesn’t rely on a single player or shot; whatever any opponent tries, the Panthers have an answer for it.
“It’s a complete team effort,” Scheppler said. “We have really talented players and part of the joy of coaching them is that there’s always an option.”
With Tuesday’s win over Presentation in the CCS Quarterfinals under their belts, Pinewood prepares to take on Mitty, to whom they have lost in the finals over the last two years. From a successful preseason to another year going undefeated in league, the Panthers have spent the past several months preparing for this showdown.
If they’re successful, Pinewood will win its first-ever CCS Championship in the girls’ Open Division.
“The team doesn’t like to lose, especially to a team as good as Mitty. We hold them in high esteem in terms of the talent they have, how hard they work, how hard they train, how well they’re coached, their system … it’s going to take everything and then some to beat them,” Scheppler said.
According to Scheppler, the question of whether this really is his best team ever is still yet to be determined, but the entire Pinewood community is backing the girls as they advance on their mission to make school history. Whatever they achieve this season, they’ll be coming home to a crowd of supporters beaming with pride.
For up to date coverage of each playoff game by Deana Kajmakovic, visit Pinewood’s page on www.prep2prep.com. Photos courtesy of The Mercury News and Prep2Prep.