A perfect season.
Nobody dared dream such a thing could happen after waiting through a pandemic that delayed the start of high school basketball season until late April.
And for the Pinewood girls team a perfect season would have to include finding a way to beat longtime nemesis Mitty, a dynastic program that had won five consecutive Central Coast Section Open Division championships, four of those with Pinewood on the losing end.
Almost unbelievably, dreams do come true, at least on this occasion.
Pinewood trailed all game on Friday, June the 11th, against Mitty at Mitty until Annika Decker, scoreless to that point, drove for a layup and was fouled with 13 seconds left. That basket gave Pinewood its first lead.
She made the free throw to complete the three-point play and give Pinewood a 50-48 lead.
Mitty (13-2) called timeout with 7.4 seconds left and missed two shots as the buzzer went off. But the referees put 1.5 seconds back on the clock and Mitty retained possession for one last chance to tie or win. But once again, a Mitty shot missed and Pinewood escaped with an incredible victory and a CCS Open Division championship.
And a 17-0 perfect season.
“It’s so sweet,’’ Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said. “Now the girls know what it feels like to be great at something.’’
Pinewood’s game plan was to try to limit Mitty’s ability to score easy baskets off offensive rebounds and turnovers. The Panthers handled Mitty’s pressure pretty well as Decker, the team’s senior point guard, took care of the ball with poise.
“She’s one of our matchup advantages,’’ Scheppler said. “I don’t think Mitty has a person on their team who can keep her in front of them.’’
But the Monarchs came out pounding the offensive boards in the first half, getting multiple shots on possession after possession.
And yet at halftime Pinewood trailed only 25-23 as the Monarchs missed more shots than is usually the case.
“Our defense played great,’‘ Scheppler said.
But in the third quarter Mitty made 7 of its first 11 field-goal attempts and opened its biggest lead at 41-29. A 3-pointer by Chance Bucher and three points by Maia Garcia brought Pinewood within 43-35 at the end of the quarter.
Mitty turned the ball over on its first two possessions of the fourth quarter. Pinewood converted on both occasions and a 3-pointer by Courtni Thompson brought the Panthers within one at 43-42. Mitty went back up 47-42 before another Thompson 3-pointer and a putback by Garcia tied it up with 4:15 left.
The score remained tied until Sydney Bourland’s free throw with 35 seconds left gave Mitty a one-point advantage. That set the stage for Decker’s drive and game-winning three-point play.
“I knew the play broke down a little, but I kept in mind the coaches telling me to stay aggressive and to attack,’’ Decker said.
The outcome may have been a surprise to some, but not necessarily to the Pinewood players.
“This year we knew it was our year,’’ said Decker, who will play college basketball for the Tufts Jumbos in Massachusetts. “We had so much confidence.’’
Garcia, who will play at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, led Pinewood with 13 points. Thompson, who will follow several other former Pinewood players to UC San Diego, scored 11, as did junior Elle Ladine.
Both Thompson and Ladine scored their 11 points on four field goals with three of those coming from 3-point range. Ladine’s 3-pointers kept Pinewood from losing contact with Mitty in the first half. The two 3s Thompson nailed in the fourth quarter were, of course, absolutely instrumental in the Pinewood comeback.
“A lot of people going up against Mitty are going to be a little bit scared,’’ Thompson said. “But for us, going into this game we’d played against them four times. We knew what to expect.’’
Pinewood made eight 3-pointers, while Mitty made four. Pinewood was 2 of 3 on the foul line, Mitty 2 of 10.
And once it was all over, once the celebration concluded and the players departed, all that was left was to marvel at what had been accomplished.
“You want to win your last game,’’ Scheppler said. “When you do the way we did today it’s like I have a coat hanger in my mouth. I can’t stop smiling.’’
This article was originally published by Palo Alto Online.