BAKERSFIELD – Kendall Cooper got in early foul trouble, shots weren't falling, and the physical maturity of a seasoned opponent were too much for St. Anthony.
The tiny Long Beach school, which had never even reached a section title game before this season, fell behind early and had no answer as Los Altos Hills Pinewood scored a 62-44 victory to win the State Division V championship at Rabobank Arena.
Pinewood (27-6) won its fourth section title in five tries; the Panthers' only loss in a title game came last year. The Panthers have been to the state finals four of the past six seasons and they responded to the big stage: They shot almost 50 percent through three quarters in building a 52-32 lead.
Miranda Seto, one of four juniors in the Pinewood lineup. sdcored 17.
St. Anthony coach James Anderson, who guided Harbor City Narbonne to several Los Angeles City Section titles and two state titles – a third was vacated – took responsibility for the loss, perhaps too much so. “If we're missing shots, it's my job to get us better shots,” Anderson said. “I've been here before. The adjustment has to come from me.”
Why didn't the adjustment come? “Off day,” Anderson said. “I did a poor job today.”
Cooper, a 6-foot-3 freshman, played a little over three minutes in the first half as St. Anthony fell behind in the first quarter, 15-8, and at halftime, 34-22, as the Saints shot 28 percent from the field, nine of 32, Pinewood shot 52 percent, 12 of 23, with four three-point baskets.
A 14-4 run by Pinewood to open the third quarter ended any chances of a St. Anthony comeback.
"We're proud to be here," Anderson said. "We talked at the beginning of the season, 'What will the final chapter be,' and it was not in terms of basketball, it was how our team galvanized a small school and brought pride back to the school and our part of Long Beach."
Freshman Jordan Jackson led St. Anthony (25-10) with 11 points. Senior Rina Towne added seven, while Cooper and her sister, junior Jourdan Cooper, scored seven apiece.
“We've got a good future,” said Anderson, in his third season at his alma mater. “We have eight freshmen who are pretty good, 12 kids coming back. We're going to be more athletic net year.”
And, likely, many years to come.