By Jeremy Balan
Mercy High School came within a layup of erasing a 23 point fourth-quarter deficit in the semifinal round of the West Bay Athletic League playoffs against top-seeded Pinewood School of Los Altos Hills on Friday at King’s Academy in Sunnyvale.
With six seconds remaining, down 51-49, Mercy (19-7, 4-6) guard Danielle Lasirona grabbed a rebound off a missed free throw from Pinewood (20-5, 9-1) guard Miranda Seto and sliced through the Panthers defense to get into a position to tie the game.
Lasirona got to the basket and released a layup at the buzzer, but the contested shot didn’t fall and Mercy’s comeback bid fell just short.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Skippers were down 49-26, but opened the quarter on a 14-0 run and outscored Pinewood 23-2 in the final frame to set up the exciting finish.
“I challenged them to never give up,” Mercy Head Coach Mike Gutierrez said. “We relaxed a little in the third quarter, but we never gave up.”
Sophomore guard Mariah Masoli led the charge for the Skippers, with 10 fourth quarter points. Masoli finished with a team-high 17 total points.
“I challenged her too,” Gutierrez said of Masoli. “Her potential is unlimited, but sometimes she hangs her head when we’re down.”
Mercy co-captain Kimmie Fung added seven points in the final quarter and finished with 15 points in the game.
Even though Pinewood held on for the victory and will advance to the league final on Saturday, Head Coach Doc Scheppler was not pleased with his team’s performance.
“I didn’t recognize the team that was out on the floor in the fourth quarter,” Scheppler said. “We’re very lucky that girl didn’t make that shot.”
Scheppler was also not happy with the performance of the game officials.
“My point guard was being bludgeoned in the fourth quarter,” Scheppler said. “It should have been called. Should we have handled it better? Of course. But you’re taught as officials to never let a team back in the game. They gave them life.”
Pinewood opened up a 25-point lead late in the third quarter, amid a 23-2 run, where the Panthers made five shots from three-point range.
“We’re a great shooting team,” Scheppler said. “Sometimes we see one go in, then the flood gates open. An open three is our best shot.”
Although the Panthers were efficient from behind the arc in the third quarter, they struggled in every other frame, shooting 3-of-21 from three-point range in the first half and 0-of-6 in the fourth quarter.
Junior guards Seto and Hailie Eackles led Pinewood offensively. Eackles had a team-high 17 points and Seto added 16.
Despite the loss, Gutierrez was encouraged and is looking to carry the momentum of the comeback into the CIF-Central Coast Section playoffs.
“We’re not going to see a team as tough as [Pinewood] in the [CCS playoffs],” Gutierrez said.
Additional reporting by Josh Levine.