See also NorCal boys roundup, Southern California roundup, girls NorCal preview, boys NorCal preview. SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Berkeley
High School junior Elisha Davis said she thought of all her favorite players - Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis and Chris Paul - while driving the lane.
The smallish but fearless 5-foot-5 guard spun in midair and rather than dish the ball off sent up a reverse, backhands, acrobatic layup.
It kissed off the glass, held on the rim for a while and dropped through, sending an enthusiastic Power Balance Pavilion crowd of 8,537 into a mini frenzy.
"I've never even tried that shot at practice," admitted Davis. "But sometimes you have to shoot for the stars."
In a terrific game that lived up to all billing, inspired courageous play and creative shots, Berkeley used balance and ferocious rebounding to win its record 10th Northern California championship with a 68-57 CIF Northern California Division I victory over arch-rival Carondelet (Concord)
on Saturday night.
Brittany Boyd had 17 points, eight rebounds and three steals, Chairese Culberson added 15 points and 12 rebounds and Elisha Davis contributed 10 points.
All of it offset a remarkable 30-point effort from Carondelet's Hannah Huffman.
"I thought of Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Monta Ellis when I went in there," Davis said of her shot. "I've never even tried that shot in practice. But sometimes you have to shoot for the stars."
Berkeley coach Cheryl Draper said the Yellowjackets (31-1) had a lot more than NBA players on their mind to put together one of their best wins of the year.
Berkeley came in ranked No. 5 in the nation by MaxPreps.com and Carondelet was No. 14.
"This was for Berkeley High," she said. "It's for the alumni, the parents, for us, the city of Berkeley. This is what we're expected to do."
Rachel Howard (nine points), Jasmine Guinn (eight) and Kristina Hunter (six points, six rebounds in the fourth quarter) all helped the Yellowjackets move into next week's state title game against the nation's top-ranked team Mater Dei.
A 45-24 edge in rebounds was key.
"We played as hard as we could and our effort was great," Carondelet coach Margaret Gartner said. "We could have folded but we battled back. But Berkeley - especially on the boards - just played a little harder."
Carondelet (28-5) fought back from a 31-19 halftime deficit to close to 39-37 late in the third quarter thanks to gritty play from Huffman, Natalie Romeo (13 points), Stanford-bound Erica Payne (seven points, seven rebounds) and Katherine Luther. After Berkeley started to pull away again, Carondelet cut it to 52-49 with 4:01 left on hard dribble-drive and layup by Luther.
But at that point Hunter, a 6-1 San Diego State-bound post who had sat out the entire regular season while administrators worked out transfer issues, asserted herself. She started a 8-2 run with a rebound bucket.
"There's so many things Khristina does that doesn't show up in the box score," Draper said. "She's a true team player."
Said Hunter: "I hadn't don't much to that point offensively, so I felt I needed to pick things up."
Huffman, who made 11 of 24 shots and 7 of 8 free throws, thinks Hunter's addition was probably the difference.
The teams played three earlier games (Berkeley won two) that were decided by a total of seven points. Hunter played in the last game - a two point Berkeley win - but the Yellowjackets are now getting used to her low-block presence.
"I think (Berkeley's) chemistry is getting better," Huffman said. "They're getting to know each other."
The combination of two physical rebounders down low - Hunter and Culberson (nicknamed both "The Piranha" and "The Beast" by coaches for her aggressive interior play) - makes life easier for perimeter players Davis, Boyd and Jasminn Guinn.
"Whoever they play in Southern California (Mater Dei) will have their hands full," Gartner said.
Division IISt. Mary's (Stockton) 56, Del Oro (Loomis) 48
Del Oro, a tough, cohesive, senior-oriented squad, appeared to have a spent and over-achieving St. Mary's squad just where it wanted.
The Golden Eagles (27-5) stood toe-to-toe with the defending national champs and six-time state winnern and trailed just 38-37 heading into the final quarter.
But the Rams (28-2) made 3-pointers, they made free throws and they made all the plays down the stretch to record an impressive, hard-fought victory.
Senior and Oregon State-bound Ali Gibson had 15 points and Courtney Range and Regina Camera 12 each for St. Mary's, but it was 20 rebounds, 12 on the offensive end by Kendall Kenyon that proved decisive.
Those rebounds helped the Rams take 71 shots, 22 more than Del Oro, which got 18 points and nine rebounds from super-skilled Madeline Campbell and 16 points and 10 rebounds from Crystal Sewell.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Gibson and Camera led a 10-2 run to start the fourth quarter and Del Oro never got within seven after that. Gibson, Camera and Range were a combined 12 of 51 from the floor, but Kenyon kept give the Rams more opportunities.
"Just clutch shots," St. Mary's coach Tom Gonsalves said. "I don't think we're a great shooting team this year but the girls made them when we needed. And Kendall was just unbelievable."
The victory gave St. Mary's nine Northern California titles, one behind Berkeley (D1). St. Mary's came in ranked sixth in the nation, according to MaxPreps' Freeman national rankings.
Del Oro, which lost 70-65 in the Sac-Joaquin Section finals to St. Mary's, changed up its defense and went man-to-man throughout which surprised Gonsalves. Del Oro committed just 16 turnovers against the vaunted St. Mary's pressure. Opponents average 28 turnovers a game against the Rams.
"It was a dog fight the first time and it was a dog fight again," Gonsalves said. "We needed to attack more and I challenged them at halftime to force the officials to blow the whistle."
St. Mary's made 17 of 22 free throws, including a combined 13 of 15 by Onome Jemerigbe and Gibson. Division III girls Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland) 57, Sacramento 46
Bishop O'Dowd coach Malik McCord wasn't surprised or even worried.
His team couldn't buy a bucket - 6 of 31 - and had 15 turnovers in the first half and trailed 20-15.
"I thought we'd seen their best and we weren't close to our best," he said. "I wasn't nervous. Once we relaxed and settled down I thought we'd be fine."
Utilizing their superior size and the nifty point guard play of Ariell Bostick, the Dragons (24-7) were better than fine after intermission when they outscored Sacramento 42-26 to claim their first NorCal championship. Two hours later, O'Dowd's boys won its record seventh NorCal title.
Oderah Chidom had 21 points and 10 rebounds, Lariel Powell had 17 points and Kendall Waters contributed 10 second-half points to go along with 10 rebounds as O'Dowd (24-7) outscored Sacramento 42-26 after intermission.
Jasmine Ware had 18 points and Fantasia Hillard 15 for Sacramento (28-6).
"Everyone thought we've been here before," McCord said. "Clearly, we hadn't."
Waters, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, was scoreless the first half, but started the second-half run with back-to-back layups, followed by a 3-pointer by Powell started a 21-8 run in the third quarter.
O'Dowd 10 of 14 shots in the third quarter and when it ran off 10 straight points, Sacramento never got within six the rest of the way.
"Once my teammates hit a couple in the second half I felt much more comfortable," Waters said.
O'Dowd point guard made everyone on her team much more comfortable, recording seven assists in the third quarter alone. The quick 5-2 sophomore finished with just five points but she keyed the second-half surge.
Chidom, a 6-3 sophomore, made 9 of 13 shots and Powell drilled three of her team's four 3-pointers.
Hilliard and Ware were terrific, combining for 12 rebounds and eight steals.
Division IVSt. Mary's (Berkeley) 70, Modesto Christian 42
At Folsom High, the Panthers advanced to the Division IV state championship for the second straight year with an overwhelming defensive effort in a win over the Modesto Christian Crusaders.
"There were two big factors in this game," said Modesto Christian coach Robb Spencer, "defense and turnovers."
Indeed the St. Mary's defense was spectacular, forcing 38 turnovers and making 17 steals. Conversely the Panthers (30-4) had just 13 turnovers of their own and the Crusaders had only one steal.
"They came out in that press and our eyes got a little big," said Panther coach Nathan Fripp. "We like to share the ball so it was good to see us execute in that first half."
The Panthers shot 47 percent in the first half with most of the points coming on layups. Modesto Christian, meanwhile, was unable to penetrate the St. Mary's defense and was relegated to shooting three-pointers. The Crusaders (25-9) made just three three-pointers for the first half and trailed 45-23 at halftime.
The Panthers had four players in double figures, led by Mika Cowling with 16 points, Shannon Mauldin with 14, Emily Vann with 12 and Cody Sims with 10. Danielle Thompson led the Crusaders with 12 points.
- Kevin Askeland
Division VPinewood (Los Altos Hills) 41, St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 36
Also at Folsom, Pinewood's Caitlin Ciardella and Hailey Eackles each hit 3-pointers to start the second half to help Panthers overcome a one-point halftime deficit and defeat St. Joseph Notre Dame 41-36.
Pinewood led 18-10 midway through the second quarter, but the Pilots went on a 9-0 run to end the half and take the lead 19-18.
The Panthers never trailed after the two early treys in the second half. Pinewood limited the Pilots to just two field goals in the fourth quarter.
Eackles finished with 16 points and 18 rebounds for the Panthers (27-5), who advance to next week's state final for the third year in a row. Pinewood has won six total NorCal Regional championships.
Ashlee Wood led the Pilots (24-5), making their first NorCal finals appearance, with 14 points while Carmen Lockhart had 10.
- Kevin Askeland