SANTA CLARA – Midway through the fourth quarter of Archbishop Mitty’s 74-51 win over Pinewood in the Central Coast Section Open Division final on Friday night, Mitty’s 6-1 senior post Maya Hernandez missed a scoreless layup.
The 6-2 freshman McKenna Woliczko jumped the Pinewood front line and tried to tip it inside. When the freshman phenom couldn’t score, 6-2 junior Morgan Cheli was there to take down the offensive board and score.
“Being back with my team was always the motivation for me,” said Cheli, who missed most of the regular season with a foot sprain. “I’m super happy that I was able to come back for this and contribute to the victory.”
Pinewood’s seven-player roster played with guts and passion, but no amount of determination could overcome Mitty’s overwhelming size advantage at the University of Santa Clara – Pinewood’s tallest player stood 5-11.
Mitty (26-2), who had won his three group matches by an average of 58 points, defeated Pinewood 34-12. For the seventh time in eight seasons, the Monarchs defeated the Los Altos Hills school for the CCS Open Division title.
Wolickzo scored 22 points, Cheli had 18 points, Hernandez scored 12, and reserve big Layla Woods had four offensive rebounds. Pinewood’s Alex Facelo scored 23 points and made five 3-pointers, and Jolyn Ding scored 13.
“I know I can just throw the ball over and someone will get it,” said Woliczko.
Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler led a team that had six of its best players on the bench. Three seniors lost their season to ACL injuries, and three other players were ineligible to play following their transfer.
“I am so proud of our team,” said Scheppler. “They played their hearts out, and there’s only so much you can do against their height.”
“I saw Doc and told him I felt terrible for the kids who tore their ACL,” said Mitty coach Sue Phillips, “And I wanted to congratulate him on a great coaching season.”
For the first three minutes, a Pinewood attack on the much-loved Archbishop Mitty seemed possible. A three-pointer from Facelo tied Pinewood (16-11) with Mitty at 8-8, and the Panthers’ deadeye shooter had produced two three-pointers in the last minute.
It wouldn’t be the first time a sharpshooting Pinewood upset Mitty in a championship game. In the 2018 NorCal Finals, a team led by Hannah Jump shocked a team by Mitty headlined by Haley Jones in triple overtime.
But then the reality of Archbishop Mitty’s format advantage set in, with the Monarchs’ height and athleticism fueling a 13–0 run over the next five minutes. The famed pressing defense also forced several turnovers, leading to even easier easy layups for the Monarchs, who have now won 19 straight games.
The Monarchs defeated Pinewood 19-12 in the second quarter, and Mitty led 40-23 at halftime after Woliczko used turnaround jumpers and strong internal moves to close the half with an 8-0 personal run.
“It’s crazy, because you take everything step by step and day by day, and you don’t want to expect anything in the future,” said Woliczko. “Now that we’ve won CCS, it’s pretty cool.”
Pinewood never came within a few digits of Mitty at any point in the second half. Despite the growing deficit, the Pinewood bench always cheered for their teammates, something that did not go unnoticed by the coach.
“Three of them couldn’t play all year and the other three tore their ACLs, and they were still cheering,” said Scheppler. “They give us energy, and that gives us faith, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Thanks to their participation in the Open Division, both teams are assured of a place in the regional game. Mitty should be a top seed in NorCal’s Open Division and is the favorite to repeat as NorCal champion.
“Securing a home game for next Tuesday is huge,” said Mitty coach Sue Phillips.