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Lady ’Jackets beat Pittsburg, will play Monte Vista in final

By Tim Haran Daily Planet Correspondent
Saturday March 03, 2001

A genuine team effort vaulted the Berkeley High girls’ basketball team over Pittsburg High Friday night and into the North Coast Section championship game, as 14 players contributed in the Lady ’Jackets 73-58 win over the visiting Pirates. 

Pittsburg kept pace with the taller Berkeley squad through much of the first quarter, trailing by two with 2:56 remaining. But the Pirates couldn’t break the ’Jackets full-court press and turned the ball over five times in just under three minutes. Led by senior forward Robin Roberson’s nine first-quarter points, Berkeley led Pittsburg 24-13 at the end of one. 

“We knew they were a smaller, quicker team than us,” Roberson said. “We let them control the game early by us not coming out hard on defense.” 

Berkeley’s momentum didn’t carry over to the second quarter as the ’Jackets were outscored 8-2 in the first three minutes of the period. Then, at the 3:06 mark, Roberson picked up her third foul and put Pittsburg’s Meghan Spurling on the line. The two free throws cut the ’Jackets lead to five, but Berkeley’s Kalyca Seabrook and Rebekah Payne each added a bucket to give the ‘Jackets a 34-26 half-time advantage. 

With just over a minute elapsed in the second half, Roberson was called for her fourth foul and was forced to the bench. Berkeley’s starting center Sabrina Keys also picked up her fourth personal midway through the third quarter. Roberson, who led the ’Jackets with 17 points, didn’t return until the 4:31 mark of the fourth quarter. 

“We wore them down and I thank my bench tonight because the way the referees were officiating the game, I needed everyone on my bench (to play),” Nakamura said. “Basically, they (officials) weren’t allowing our kids to be athletes.” 

The game was slowed by an abundance of foul calls. Berkeley converted 17-of-28 free throw attempts while Pittsburg made 17-of-26. For the Pirates, starter Akilah Hicks fouled out while Keys got called for her fifth personal with 1:37 left in the game. 

Nakamura was also upset by a lack of traveling calls and a time-out originally charged to the Pirates that was later given back to Pittsburg only after both teams had met with coaches. 

“This is supposed to be a championship series and it’s not right to have referees like that out there that don’t let you play,” Nakamura said. “I tell my kids to not get in a situation where the referees can make a difference.” 

Pirates’ guard Alexis Mack kept Pittsburg close by scoring a game-high 20 points. But after the guard recorded nine points in the opening period, the ’Jackets contained Mack by adding pressure each time she touched the ball. Berkeley’s Roberson scored eight fourth quarter points, including two 3-pointers to keep the ’Jackets on top. 

“We were right there with them the whole game,” Pittsburg coach Maureen Mattson said. “They just got a quick run and a couple of 3-pointers right there at the end of the game that hurt us.” 

In addition to Roberson’s 17, Berkeley guard Angelita Hutton scored 14 and Payne tossed in 10. Behind Mack’s 20, Pittsburg’s Courtney Warren added 10 as the only other Pirate in double figures. 

“They are a great outside shooting team,” Nakamura said of Pittsburg, adding that the relatively close win will benefit the ’Jackets as the postseason continues. 

“Coming out of our league (ACCAL) that’s not real strong, a positive is that all of our kids got a lot of playing time,” Nakamura said.  

While Roberson and Keys spent much of the second half on the bench, the Berkeley guards stepped up their intensity and maintained a comfortable cushion over the Pirates. Hutton especially, Nakamura said, played a strong game. 

“She’s my veteran in there,” he said. “She’s started three straight years and I count on her experience and court sense to keep everybody calm. I was very happy with the way she played.” 

The No. 1 seed Lady ’ Jackets face No. 3 Monte Vista in the title game Saturday night in Berkeley at 8 p.m.