The 3 Pointer: “Next One’s In”

  In his tiny office bursting with Pinewood girls basketball memorabilia and team photos, head basketball coach Doc Scheppler, known across the country as a connoisseur of the three-point shot, pulls up his camera roll favorites and shows me a video of Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley shooting threes during warm-ups.

   Swish. Swish. Swish. “There’s no fluctuation with this guy’s ball. Every shot looks the same — that’s the goal of shooting,” Scheppler tells me.

   Although he had always been a great perimeter shooter, Scheppler’s fascination with the three-point shot began in 1987 when college coach Rick Pitino used it to lead Providence College on a historic run to the NCAA Final Four. With his daughter Kacey Scheppler, who would go on to set a state record with 395 made threes, Scheppler came to Pinewood in 1995 and built the varsity girls program upon the three-point shot. Within 26 years, “tiny Pinewood” had racked up a total of six state championships, sent countless players off to Division I-III colleges, and upset some of the state’s highest ranked teams, from St. Mary’s High School to rival Archbishop Mitty. Recently, the team finished its 2020-21 season with a 17-0 record and a hard-fought CCS Open Division championship. In every single matchup, from an inconsequential league game to the 2018 Norcal Open Division state championship, one thing remained certain: the girls drained three after three.

   Senior guard and University of Washington commit Elle Ladine remembers her initial reaction to the Pinewood way of playing basketball when she first started training with Scheppler in the spring of 2020.

   “At first, I thought, ‘What is this man thinking?’ Like, this is crazy. But he explained it to me and I got to see it with my own eyes — we don’t need pull-ups to win an Open Division championship. I realized that this is our style of play, and it makes sense,” Ladine said.

   According to Scheppler, a clear mind is one of the most important aspects of a good shooter.

   “When you know it’s going in, your mind is out of it, and your body is doing all the work,” Scheppler said. “The mentality is ‘next one’s always in,’ but the only way to build confidence is to prepare — have great form, and get a lot of reps in. When you’re really in that relaxed zone, you shoot well because you don’t think; you just do it.”

   Assistant coach and former Pinewood guard Miranda Seto, who won two state championships in her time at Pinewood and went on to play at UC San Diego, thinks that three-point shooting gives the team a variety of advantages outside of simply scoring more points.

   “You’re spacing out the defense by being out of the three-point line, and the fact that you have five players on the court who can shoot at all times is a huge threat because a lot of teams don’t have that advantage,” Seto said.

   Ladine believes that the team’s tremendous shooting ability comes from not only being mentally capable and technically sound but also spending time in the gym.

   “Every day, we get in the gym, and every player gets several hundred shots up,” Ladine said. “If you do that every day, six weeks, twelve months, you’re going to be an efficient team, and you’re going to play great basketball.”