The Berkeley High women’s basketball team played its first game of the season Wednesday, and got its opening-day jitters out of the way early.
A lackluster first quarter quickly gave way to an impressive 60-38 victory over the Vallejo Apaches. Despite missing numerous layups and committing 15 turnovers, the ’Jackets steamrolled over the visitors without two starters, Celeste Jenkins and Robin Roberson, both of whom missed the game due to illness.
The go-to player for Berkeley was center Sabrina Keys, one of three returning starters from last season’s NCS runner-up squad. Struggling to find her form early, Keys shot just 1-for-5 from the floor in the first half. Her best contribution to the team was drawing two quick fouls on Vallejo center Candace Holmes, sending the center to the bench for much of the half and stagnating the Apache offense.
But head coach Gene Nakamura told his players to keep feeding Keys the ball inside, and the 6-2 senior responded with a strong second half, making six of her eight shots to finish the game with 14 points. She also dominated the boards, pulling down eight rebounds, including three off the offensive glass.
“I was just so juiced up to start the game,” Keys said. “Coach just told me to relax and focus, and that’s what I did.”
While Keys started slowly, guard Angelita Hutton got the offense in gear. She scored nine points in the first half, and finished with a remarkably balanced line: 14 points, one rebound, two assists, two blocks and five steals.
“She played great today, on defense, in transition, in the offense,” Nakamura said. “It’s good to see, because we need her to score this year.”
The ’Jackets didn’t have a great day on offense, but they excelled on defense, not letting Vallejo get the ball inside and forcing long jumpers that mostly clanged off of the rim. Senior April Paraiso led the Apaches with 10 points, and no other player had more than six for the visitors.
Berkeley, on the other hand, spread the scoring around. Hutton and Keys led the team with 14 points apiece, and forward Gelater Fullwood scored eight and pulled down five rebounds to go with three steals.
Natasha Bailey scored sevenpoints despite missing several layups, and guard Kala Seabrook pitched in six points and four rebounds.
“Everybody hustled and really played hard,” Nakamura said. “We had our first-game jitters, and we still won the game. When we get our starters back, it’ll be great to see all 13 players contributing.”