Milton, St. Jules lead balanced attack
On paper, Tuesday’s game between Berkeley and Encinal should have been a walk for the Yellowjackets. The Jets came into the game 4-7 in ACCAL play, while the visiting ’Jackets are undefeated in league play and clinched the league title last week.
In addition, the Jets were playing shorthanded, with only six players suited up thanks to players who quit the team, couldn’t make grades or were out with an injury. Berkeley had 12 players in uniform, even with two key guards on the bench in street clothes.
But somehow, the Jets managed to stay with the ’Jackets for almost the entire game, down just one point at halftime and getting within a three-pointer with 21 seconds left in the game. But the Berkeley boys came through like they have all season, pulling out a 53-48 win to keep their unbeaten league record intact at 11-0. The ’Jackets are 20-5 overall.
Berkeley used a balanced attack, getting at least seven points from six different players. Guard Byron St. Jules and forward Jahi Milton led with 10 points each.
Four of the Jets players were playing their last game for Encinal, and they came out looking to end their careers with an upset. Forwards Chris Davis and Isaac Watts dominated the boards in the first half, outrebounding the entire Berkeley squad 11-8. Davis was on fire in the first quarter, hitting all five of his shots for 10 points and a 15-13 lead at the break. He finished the game with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting and nine rebounds.
“We came out with a lot of emotion, this being senior night and all,” Encinal head coach Dan Palley said. “Also, we didn’t play very well the first time against Berkeley, so we had even more incentive.”
The only Yellowjacket who showed any life on offense was guard Atticus Honore, who took advantage of a rare start with seven points in the quarter.
The Jets stayed hot in the second quarter, and point guard Mike Dinh gave them a seven-point lead with a three-pointer. But Berkeley’s full-court press began taking its toll, and guard Byron St. Jules sandwiched a pair of steals and layups around a Ryan Davis layup to pull the ’Jackets within one. Forward Ramone Reed then hit a short jumper to give his team a 23-22 lead with two minutes left in the half.
After the break, Berkeley started to look inside on offense, putting the ball in the hands of Reed and Milton, who scored all of his points in the second half. Reed hit another short jumper, then pulled off a steal and dished to Milton for an easy basket, and Berkeley was up 39-35.
“I told them at halftime that we can’t live from the outside, and we made the right adjustments,” Berkeley head coach Mike Gragnani said. “Jahi just put the ball in the basket in the second half.”
But the rest of the ’Jackets were struggling with their shooting, and Encinal center Danny Delmore hit a three-pointer to give his team a 42-41 lead heading into the final quarter.
Milton hit a jumper early in the period to grab the lead, and the ’Jackets clamped down on defense, shutting out the Jets for nearly four minutes. When St. Jules found a hole and penetrated for a layup with just 1:40 left in the game, he gave the ’Jackets their biggest lead of the night at 51-44.
But Berkeley followed a Watts free throw with a turnover, and Delmore hit another trey to pull his team within three points. Berkeley forward Louis Riordan had to hit two free throws to ice the game with 11 seconds left.