The Pinewood girls are back in the state Division V championship game.
No Central Coast Section basketball team has been a more frequent participant in state title games than the Panthers, who play Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth on Friday morning at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Pinewood (23-8), which is making its third state championship game appearance in the past four years, will be going for its sixth state title.
"I know we'll be confident, I know we'll be ready to play at 10 in the morning," Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said. "This team we're playing is a little higher ranked. They played a tougher schedule. But I feel real confident. Our girls have been there. We know the ropes."
Pinewood's formula for success through the Northern California portion of the state playoffs was found on the defensive end, and that's in contrast to previous Pinewood teams that have tended to be prolific 3-point shooting teams.
The Panthers allowed an average of 29.3 points per game in three NorCal playoff games and won those games (52-22 over San Domenico, 37-30 over Valley Christian-Dublin and 48-36 over Eastside Prep) by an average margin of more than 16 points per game.
"We've played hard and tried to take away the other team's strength," Scheppler said. "We're a better shooting team than we showed. This team, with its youth and inexperience, hasn't found itself (on offense) yet. The good news is they're playing for a state championship. That's really cool for this team."
Angelina Mapa is Pinewood's only senior. Junior Leeana Bade scored 18 against Eastside. Sophomore point guard Marissa Hing scored 17.
Sierra Canyon (26-9) advanced with a 63-62 win over Horizon Christian of San Diego. The Trailblazers played St. Mary's of Berkeley on Feb. 1, a top Bay Area team that was selected for the state Open Division playoffs, and lost just 40-38.
"They're pretty athletic and have a post presence," Scheppler said. "We'll try to minimize post possessions and hold the fort in terms of rebounding."