Girls NorCal Regionals: Defending state champs oust RV Christian

By HOWARD SENZELL
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

If Rincon Valley Christian coach Doug Crouse knows his basketball, and he does, Pinewood will win its second straight Division V girls state championship later this month.

The Los Altos Hill team made believers of Crouse and his team Thursday night, defeating the visiting Eagles, 71-52, in the second round of the NorCal regional playoffs.

“They’re an outstanding team, just outstanding,” Crouse said after watching his girls, with 30 wins under their belt, lose the lopsided game.

Pinewood led by eight after one quarter and increased the margin to 42-22 at halftime. It was 60-32 going to the fourth quarter.

A majority of the Panthers’ points came from 3-point territory, where they connected 15 times.

Hallie Eackles, who came in averaging 22.9 points, had 25 in the first half and finished with 31. “Eackles is definitely the best we’ve played against,” RVC forward Hannah Dolan said. “She’d drive to the basket and if we had her covered, she’d kick the ball out to one of her teammates and they’d make a 3.”

Dolan was impressed with Pinewood’s discipline.

“You could tell they’ve played together for a lot of years,” the senior said. “They played under control at both ends of the court and that Eackles is so good it’s ridiculous.”

Dolan finished with 11 points. Claire Bailey and Arianna Hanson had 13 apiece for the Eagles. Bailey also pulled down 15 rebounds.

All three girls were playing their final game for RVC.

“We knew Pinewood was really strong and they played to expectations,” Bailey said. “I was happy with the way I played. When they jumped out to an early lead, we knew we had nothing to lose and we played loose. They’re just an awesome team.”

Hanson, like the other seniors on the team, was sad her high school career ended with a one-sided loss.

“It’s disappointing, but we played hard,” the 5-foot-11 guard said. “Eackles is really going to go far with her basketball. She’s really, really good.”

The 5-foot-9 Eackles, who plays wing, averaged 16 per game last year on the team that won state with a 62-44 victory over St. Anthony (Long Beach).

Pinewood is three wins away from a repeat. The West Bay-Foothill Conference champs, now 25-5, will host a regional semifinal game Saturday against Bradshaw Christian. If the top-seeded Panthers win, they’ll play in the regional finals March 19 with the state title being decided March 25 at ARCO Arena in Sacramento.
Last year, RVC was the North Coast Section Division 6 champions and the school elected to move up to Division 5 this year.

“We have no regrets about the decision to play up a division,” Crouse said. “We wanted to challenge ourselves and we went as far as we could. We made it out of NCS and got to the second round of regionals.

“We had a 30-4 record and that’s a great year. Our season ended getting beat by the defending state champs. They’re just a better team and our girls played as well as they could.”