By Keith Peters
The last time the Pinewood and Eastside Prep girls' basketball teams met, Ahjalee Harvey made an improbable three-pointer as time ran out to send the game into overtime, with her Eastside squad then pulling out the victory.
Harvey was in a similar position to plunge the dagger into Pinewood's hopes once again, when she let fly with a three-point attempt with 5.7 seconds remaining and her team trailing by three.
This time, there was no swish for Harvey and no victory for Eastside Prep as the ball hit the rim. Pinewood's Miranda Seto grabbed the rebound and time finally expired in this season's third installment of this fierce basketball rivalry.
Pinewood did escape this time, with a 43-40 triumph in the championship game of the West Bay Athletic League playoffs at Menlo School on Saturday. The winning Panthers (21-5) earned the league's No. 1 seed for next week's Central Coast Section Division V playoffs while the runnerup Panthers (19-7) got the No. 2 seed.
Those likely will be their seeds for the playoffs, as well, as Pinewood and Eastside Prep are clearly the two best Division V teams in the CCS.
"That was a great win for us," said Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler. "We'll see them again in two weeks."
Both teams are favored to reach the CCS finals on March 5 at Santa Clara University and renew their rivalry. Each of the three times they have met this season have been close, with Pinewood now holding a 2-1 edge. It easily could have gone the other way, however.
"I thought Harvey's shot was going down," Scheppler said. "She's come up with so many big shots against us over the years."
Harvey's last big shot on Feb. 1 handed Pinewood its only WBAL Foothill Division loss (44-40) and cost the Panthers an outright division title. This time, the odds swung in Pinewood's favor after Eastside nearly pulled it out again.
After Pinewood senior Kelsey Morehead buried what would be the game-winning three-pointer with 1:30 left to play and Eastside Prep's Hashima Carothers had made one of two free throws with 1:21 remaining, Pinewood held a 43-40 lead. A Pinewood turnover, however, gave the ball to Eastside Prep with 31.2 seconds left.
Eastside senior Ausjerae Holland missed a two-pointer and 5-foot-1 Caitlin Ciardella grabbed the rebound, only to have it stolen by Eastside's Takara Burse, who quickly dished the ball to Harvey for her final attempt that missed.
Each team played very well in spurts, as Pinewood grabbed an early 19-6 lead on Seto's three-pointer. She scored all 12 of her points in the first half while high-scoring Hailie Eackles was held to just four.
Eastside Prep rallied in the third quarter and went on a 10-2 run, sparked by Harvey's five points, to get to within 34-30 heading into the fourth.
Pinewood's 5-9 freshman Leeana Bade made some big contributions in the final period, making two free throws for a 36-32 and converting again for a 40-37 lead following a three-pointer by Harvey to get her to within one.
Carothers scored for a 40-39 game before Morehead hit her game-winning three.
"Leanna Bade was the go-to player of the game today," Scheppler said.
With Eackles held to just 11 points, 12 below her season average of 23.1, Bade stepped up with 10. She played a lot of important minutes and was solid on defense, as well.
Harvey finished with 14, also below her season average while Carothers scored all 10 of her points in the second half after sitting out much of the first half with three fouls.
Neither team shot particularly well. Pinewood made only four 3-pointers after sinking 18 in the semifinals.
"We didn't shoot particularly well and we didn't finish well, either," Scheppler said. "But, I'm really proud of my girls because they didn't play their best and still won. We can still play better."
Pinewood and Eastside Prep will have that opportunity next weekend when they open the CCS playoffs.
"It's playoff time," Scheppler said. "We're ready to go."