STANFORD, Calif. — Beating Pinewood in the CCS Open Division Championship is nothing new for the Mitty Monarchs, but the efficiency with which they did so on Friday night was unprecedented.
Having won the prior four championships over the Panthers by an average of 15.5 points, the top-seeded Monarchs ensured there would be little suspense at Maples Pavilion, winning 76-44 and leading by as much as 37 in the process.
“I think our tempo and our defensive assignments were excellent,” head coach Sue Phillips said. “Credit to our girls who are executing the gameplan and really locking in on their shooters.”
Leading 13-10 after a quarter, Mitty (24-3) got back-to-back threes from Ashley Hiraki and Olivia Williams to start the second and never looked back, taking a 15-point lead into the break after Katie Springs dominated the period. She had assists on five straight points from Williams, scored six of her own to close the quarter after second-seeded Pinewood had gotten within nine on a Valentina Saric three and pulled down six rebounds as the lead ballooned to 32-17.
“We really settled into our scouting report defense, locking down the shooters and making sure we were getting on the boards properly,” Springs said.
The onslaught continued in the third as seven different Monarchs scored, outscoring Pinewood (23-4) by 12 over the eight minutes. Though her four points came with the outcome well in hand, Hunter Hernandez’s contributions may have been the most noticeable. Playing just her eighth game since returning from a severe knee injury, she scored 11 of Mitty’s 34 bench points. She added another seven in the fourth, with a pair of putbacks sandwiched around an Una Jovanovic three.
Jovanovic led the Panthers with 11, but it was Springs and the Monarchs who dominated both ends of the court. They forced Pinewood to commit a season-high 22 turnovers, outrebounded the Panthers 51-37 and forced them to shoot just 28.1% from the floor, their third-worst mark of the season.
“Katie was phenomenal defensively,” Phillips said. “She made some key stops, some hedges and cleaned up the backside of the boards.”
In addition to her 13 points, Springs had a game-high 17 rebounds, with seven on the offensive glass. The only player on either team to score more was Williams, who had 17 on 8-for-12 shooting. Cal State Northridge commit Ashley Hiraki was held to eight points and eight rebounds, but with how dominant the Monarchs were from top to bottom in the final three quarters, she may not have even needed to touch the ball.
“When we finally got comfortable handling their pressure and their traps, we couldn’t finish plays,” Pinewood head coach Doc Scheppler said after his team lost a sixth consecutive Open Division Championship Game, including the five defeats to the Monarchs. “We went dry, and that’s something you can’t do against them because they find ways to get easy baskets.”
While the outcome was the same as usual for Mitty, the decisive and convincing manner in which the Monarchs won was unprecedented, and they essentially did it in Pinewood’s backyard, playing at Stanford.
“I feel bad because it’s such a great environment to play in,” Scheppler said. “It’s such a win to be able to play in this, but not to be able to play well will be something that wears on the girls.”
Aside from Jovanovic’s 11 points, Saric scored eight, but there were few chances for the Pinewood fans to cheer, save for four late Emily Lee free throws and a Skylar Chui basket as both teams emptied their benches. The Mitty supporters saved their largest cheers of the night for Siena Guttadauro, who scored five, and Jamaya Perry, who drained a late free throw as the Monarchs threatened to finish the game with a running clock.
The Monarchs should be the top seed in the Northern California region of the CIF Open Division when brackets are released on Sunday.