MORAGA, Calif. – There were many times the St. Mary’s (Stockton, Calif.) Rams didn't resemble the nation's top girls basketball team on Saturday night.
But when push came to shove came to blow came to resolve, the Rams’ 72-61 victory over a talented and fearless Berkeley squad showed precisely why they are the country’s No. 1 ranked team. .
St. Mary’s overcame one obstacle after another to win for the 19th time in 20 games while taking the showcase contest of the seven-game Campolindo Shootout.
Duke-bound point guard Chelsea Gray scored 18 points and dished out nine assists – many of the no-look, spectacular variety – as she shared team-high scoring honors with under-publicized Ali Gibson, a 5-foot-11 junior.
Gray’s performance personified the gritty effort as she went down with 5 minutes, 9 seconds left in the first quarter with what looked like a severely sprained right ankle.
The 6-foot All-American screamed out in pain and the three-quarters filled gym – who largely gathered just to see the talents of Gray and her top-ranked teammates – went quiet.
A Campolindo team physician calmed Gray, who later said she had never injured the ankle before, got her to her feet and wrapped the injured area. Gray, who scored the game’s first basket in the first four seconds on one of 11 St. Mary’s 3-pointers, sat out the rest of the first quarter.
“As long as I could walk I was going to get back in the game,” Gray said afterward. “We were down and my team needed me.”
Truth be told, her team just needed to see that she was just OK.
At first the injury looked extremely serious and that seemed to rattle the Rams who watched the Yellowjackets, ranked second in the San Francisco Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle, score 11 of the quarter’s last 16 points.
“We definitely got rattled with Chelsea not only out but in pain,” St. Mary’s coach Tom Gonsalves.
But even when Gray returned, the Rams were in for a major fight with the Yellowjackets, whose confidence appeared to grow as the game progressed.
Berkeley, with the talented backcourt of Brittany Boyd (game-high 19 points) and Elisha Davis, attacked the vaunted St. Mary’s fullcourt pressure fearlessly and talented 6-1 junior post Charise Culberson (14 points, 11 rebounds) cleaned up on the inside.
When Berkeley (15-3) scored the first 11 points of the second quarter, St. Mary’s found itself down 26-13 — a precarious spot for anyone else, but these Rams are particularly battle-tested.
This is the same team that fought back from an eight-point deficit in the final minute to beat Brea Olinda, the nation’s No. 2 team at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona last month.
St. Mary’s also fell behind nationally-ranked teams Memphis (Tenn.) Central and Hoover (Ala.) by double-digits only to come back to win.
“Unquestionably the places we’ve been, opponents we’ve faced and deficits we’ve overcomed before helped us tonight,” Gonsalves said.
Though Gray was superlative and fellow All-American Afure Jemerigbe (10 points, nine rebounds, three blocks) played well in spots, the Rams showed they have weapons all-around.
Alle Moreno, a 5-6 senior, drilled a pair of 3-pointers keying a 12-5 run to end the second quarter to close to 31-25. She finished with 13 points.
Then in the third, the Rams got their complete press and 3-point game going full speed, going on a 17-5 run in the first 3:28. Moreno, Gibson and Emily Gonsalves all drilled 3-pointers in the run and St. Mary’s suddenly had a 42-36 lead.
“We lost our poise a little to start the third quarter,” Boyd said. “All the things we had done so well we weren’t doing as well.”
But in perhaps Berkeley’s finest moment, it came right back with six straight points on a fastbreak hoop by Boyd and two buckets from junior Ashley Webster (12 points, 10 rebounds). That tied it at 42-42 and it was apparent then the Yellowjackets weren’t going away.
“Much of the problems we had tonight was due to Berkeley,” coach Gonsalves said. “They’ve very talented and compete very hard.”
Gray responded with tough jumper, Gibson hit another 3-pointer and Moreno converted a fastbreak lay-up and St. Mary’s was up for good 49-42. Taylor Wallace hit a driving layup and Boyd scored again on a fastbreak hoop to close to 49-46 at the quarter, but when the Rams opened the fourth on a 10-0 run keyed by three beautiful assists from Gray, this one was essentially over.
Gray added a pair of 3-pointers and a tough floater down the stretch and the Rams had survived a very tough challenge.
“Games like this only make us stronger,” Gray said. “It wasn’t our best game but we did what we had to do.”
It was the end of a tough week for coach Gonsalves, who missed Thursday’s 90-17 league win over Stagg to attend a funeral. His lifelong best friend Jeff Tomasetti died suddenly of natural causes earlier in the week.
“I’ve definitely been a little depressed,” Gonsalves said. “This was definitely a good diversion.
“I think you’ve got to give it to our girls for fighting through that rough spot and a very good team to come out on top.”
St. Mary’s-Berkeley 61, Deer Valley-Antioch 42
The Panthers (16-3), No. 7 in the Bay Area, got off to a very slow start and missed numerous inside shots, but eventually got it rolling to win going away behind 15 points and 16 rebounds by St. Mary’s College-bound 5-11 senior Danielle Mauldin. Teammate Emily Vann, a 6-1 junior, had 12 points and six rebounds.
St. Mary’s broke open a close game with a 17-5 run in the third quarter as seven different Panthers scored.
“We just made shots and came out ready to play the second half,” St. Mary’s coach Nathan Fripp said. “The first half we just came out sleep-walking.”
Fripp said his team has been up-and-down all year, but has the potential to be “very, very good. I hate that word potential though. We just have to come out and do it.”
The Panthers have an impressive front line with Mauldin, Vann and Cody Sims, a 6-foot junior. All are excellent passers and good rebounders. The backcourt is athletic and got some superb play from 5-8 junior April Bernal, 5-6 junior Jade Rowland, 5-7 senior Taylor Lawson and 5-6 freshman Jazel Talauta.
Deer Valley (12-6) very young but fit and athletic, got nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks by 6-foot sophomore Samantha Kixmiller. The Wolverines are No. 17 in the Bay Area.
Campolindo-Moraga 71, Lincoln-San Francisco 60
In a highly-entertaining game, the 19th-ranked Cougars (13-6) simply had too much brawn and size and recorded a hard-earned win over the scrappy and 14th-ranked Mustangs, who got a career- and game-high 32 points and 10 steals from talented 5-5 senior Hallie Meneses.
Meghan Ringer, a physical and skilled 6-1 senior, had 23 points, nine rebounds and four blocks for Campolindo, while teammates Amanda Forshay (15 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks) and Chloe Hull (11 points, eight rebounds) added big games as well.
Forshay, a 6-foot guard, can handle the ball beautifully and had little trouble posting up the smaller Mustangs, who don’t have a player taller than 5-9.
“They (Campolindo) have everything,” Meneses said. “They were not only bigger and stronger than us, but they’re quick, can handle the ball, shoot and pass. I thought we competed very well.”
Lincoln led 18-14 after the first quarter, but by late in the second they found themselves down 38-23. Meneses responded with a 3-pointer and a steal and layup to close to 41-39 early in the third when Campolindo took over for good.
Annelise Ito, an impressive 5-11 sophomore converted a 3-point play, starting a 13-3 run and Lincoln never got within 10 the rest of the way. Hull had a 3-pointer and left-hand layup in the run.
Stephanie Lu had 16 points and six rebounds and Maripousa Silifaiva eight points and 10 rebounds for Lincoln (16-4).
Northgate 96, Fairfield 38
Kayla Galanter, a 5-5 junior guard, exploded by hitting a school-record 11 3-pointers and scoring a school-record 39 points as the eighth-ranked Broncos (16-2) won going away.
Northgate set a school record with 17 3-pointers.
Courtney Hamilton had 19 points and seven rebounds, and sophomore Greer Kleber added 17 points, 10 rebounds and five steals for Northgate.
Dublin 58, Alameda 51
Playing without star 6-foot sophomore center Catherine Kruschke (MCL knee injury), the 11th-ranked Gaels (15-3) rebounded from a double-digit defict to defeat Alameda behind 19 points from Nikki Beckman and 18 points and eight rebounds by Chereese Thomas. Khyra Conerly had 13 points and 14 rebounds for Alameda (11-6).
Livermore 64, Pinole Valley 36
El Camino 53, Castlemont 51