By Jared Green
Daily Planet Staff
This was a game Robin Roberson just wasn’t going to lose.
Berkeley’s senior star ended her home-court career Friday night by leading the Lady ’Jackets past Kennedy (Sacramento), 68-47, in a CIF Northern Section Division I semifinal. Berkeley will play at ARCO Arena in Sacramento on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the final for the right to play the next weekend for the state championship.
Roberson led all scorers with 32 points, including 17 in the final quarter to seal the deal. The ’Jackets went into the fourth with a nine-point lead, but Roberson put the nail in the Cougars’ coffin with four buckets to key a 13-1 Berkeley run.
Berkeley head coach Gene Nakamura challenged his star after the third quarter, as she had just 14 points and the ’Jackets had let Kennedy back in the game after leading by as much as 21 points.
“I was rushing my shot, and Coach took me aside and said, ‘Is this how you want to end your last game here, playing like this?’ I said no, and I went out and made my shots,” Roberson said.
Roberson got help from her fellow frontcourters, as forward Gelater Fullwood and center Sabrina Keys combined for 16 points and 16 rebounds, dominating the inside against the smaller Cougars. Fullwood was particularly ferocious on the offensive glass, pulling down six rebounds and getting three inside baskets in a row in the third quarter.
“Gelater has been a warrior the last two games,” Nakamura said. “She’s gone out there like it’s the last game for her.”
Early on, it looked as if the ’Jackets would have no problems with Kennedy, as they jumped out to a 21-5 lead after the first quarter. The Cougars’ lack of big-game experience showed, as they shot just 1-for-14 from the floor in the opening period and 9-for-49 in the game.
But Berkeley was called for several touch fouls, and the Cougars were in the bonus early in the second quarter. The cut the lead to single digits at 30-21, thanks to 13 trips to the free throw line, 10 of which they converted. But Fullwood hit a free throw, and Lauren Chambers made a sweet turnaround jumper at the buzzer, and the ’Jackets had a 33-21 halftime lead.
Nakamura squad came out firing to start the second half, and a Roberson 3-pointer gave them a 42-21 advantage early. But both Roberson and Keys earned their third fouls with five minutes to go in the quarter and had to go to the bench. The Cougars responded with a 12-point run. Roberson came back in and hit a short jumper, but Kennedy’s Christina Johnson answered with a layup to draw back within nine to start the fourth quarter.
“They’re a transition team like us, and they make runs,” Nakamura said. “I didn’t want them to keep running, so I told my team to be patient and get good shots. When we did that, we were okay.”
Johnson and freshman sensation Alisha Hicks led the Cougars with 14 points each, and Diana Fong pitched in 11 points. But the ’Jackets shut down Kennedy’s leading scorer, junior Smartt Kidd, holding her to no field goals and just four points.
One Berkeley player who will have to step up in Sacramento is junior guard Angelita Hutton. The ’Jackets’ third-leading scorer in the regular season, Hutton has now scored just 11 points in the two regional games combined, shooting just 5-for-20 from the floor. Hutton has had foul trouble in recent games, including a technical foul in the first quarter on Friday.
“(Hutton) takes herself out of the game with foul trouble,” Nakamura said. “She tries to block everything, and ends up on the bench. We need her in the game.”
Nevertheless, the Lady ’Jackets are heading back to ARCO, where they lost to Narbonne in the state championship last year.
“Our main goal was to make it to ARCO,” Roberson said. “Our goal now is to win state. We always get there, but we never win.”