Redemption was on the minds of Pinnacle’s girls basketball team Wednesday afternoon as it prepared to face Tolleson for the 5A Division II state title.
Redemption for a 30-point loss six weeks ago on the same Wells Fargo Arena floor to the Wolverines. Redemption for three straight title-game losses, two in 5A-II and one in 4A-I.
But redemption must wait for Pinnacle for at least another year. Tolleson used 19 points from senior standout Rebecca Woodberry and bottled up Pinnacle’s leading scorer, Aley Rohde, to produce a 52-43 victory for its second consecutive state title. Tolleson finished the season 28-5 with the satisfaction of competing against and beating most of 5A’s best teams, Division I or Division II. Pinnacle (23-11) recorded its fourth straight runner-up finish.
“We knew they’d be hungry after losing to us by two last year in the championship game and knew they would be hungrier this time after the game in January,” Tolleson coach Todd Nelson said. “We played as well as we could play that day. If we both play our best it’s a five-point game either way. That’s what it was like today.”
Pinnacle had its chance to avenge the earlier drubbing. Despite trailing by 12 in the second period and 11 late in the third, Pinnacle battled back and headed to the final period down just 44-39. The only scoring run of the day by Rohde, the Pioneers’ talented junior post (five points in 25 seconds) and a 3 by freshman guard Sydney Wiese sliced the double-digit gap to a manageable finish.
But Pinnacle’s bid to win was thwarted by 1-of-12 shooting from the floor in the final period. Rohde’s five-point run in the third gave her a game total of seven, and that’s where she finished — nine points below her season average. Rohde attempted just seven shots for the day.
Pinnacle coach Jackie Clayton, frustrated and disappointed as much as her team with another title-game defeat, lamented the lack of opportunities from Rohde.
“When there’s only one foul called on them (on Rohde) in the second half, well that’s great,” Clayton said. “Our post is getting nailed in the side, nailed in the back. We didn’t do what we should have. That didn’t help.”
On the flip side, Nelson praised the play of senior center Kiara Moore for her defense on Rohde.
“Kiara did a fantastic job fronting Rohde and getting help,” Nelson said. “She played about 30 seconds in last year’s game because she couldn’t guard Rohde. She was great today.”
Tolleson didn’t have a spectacular final period either, turning the ball over seven times, which kept Pinnacle in line to make a run that didn’t happen. The only field goal Pinnacle made in the final period was a 3 by Wiese (her fifth of the game for her team-high 15 points).
A putback by Woodberry of a missed free throw by teammate Kalasis Green gave Tolleson a 50-43 lead with 51 seconds left and sealed Pinnacle’s fate.
Pinnacle’s game plan and execution were much better in this rematch from January. The Pioneers were more patient, although a lack of patience at the end of the first period saw them lose a 10-7 lead and trail after one period 13-10. They exhibited the needed patience, ending the second period running off the final 30-plus seconds and getting a 3 from Wiese to pull within 26-22 at intermission.
It also helped that Tolleson was not nearly as adept from 3-point range as it was on Jan. 18 in an 80-50 win, when the Wolverines knocked down 11 of 22 from 3-point range. Tolleson made three 3s in the first half — the last two baskets of the opening quarter and an early 3 by Woodberry in the second period.