Page One

Berkeley boys fly, then ground Jets

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday January 23, 2002

Early in Tuesday’s game against Encinal, the ’Jackets wowed the crowd with their athleticism. Late in the game, they impressed their coach with their developing composure. 

After letting the Jets tie the game at 43-43 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Berkeley went on a 8-0 run, then hit their free throws down the stretch to pull out a 58-49 win. 

“We’re maintaining our composure much better than earlier this season,” Berkeley head coach Mike Gragnani said of his young squad. “This game is a positive step for this team.” 

The ’Jackets (10-7, 4-1 ACCAL) were especially impressive from the free throw line in the final quarter, going 8-for-10 from the charity stripe, including 4-for-4 from guard Lee Franklin, his only points of the game, while Encinal was just 3-of-8. Nate Simmons shook off a bad shooting game to hit a huge 3-pointer for a 49-43 lead and Berkeley never looked back. 

Senior center Damien Burns led the ’Jackets with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 4 steals, while point guard Shawn Burl scored 11 points. Encinal was led by Danny Dozier and Brian Kindem with 12 points each, but were out-rebounded 28-18 for the game. 

Berkeley started the game slowly, falling behind 7-0 within the first two minutes. After some early trouble with Encinal’s 2-3 zone got them off to a 4-for-15 start from the field, the ’Jackets went to high-percentage shots: dunks. Sophomore Khion Tate gave his team its first lead at 12-11 with a cherry-picking slam, then brought the Berkeley crowd to its feet with a baseline jam over two defenders. 

“I didn’t think I was going to make it over them, but I just went for it,” Tate said of his second dunk. He finished the game with 7 points. 

Encinal (6-11, 2-3) answered back to end the first quarter with a 3-pointer from Danny Delmore to tie the game at 14-14, but the ’Jackets continued their sky-walking ways in the second quarter. Burns got a steal, ran the floor and was rewarded by a nice dish from point guard Burl, slamming it home for a 20-14 lead. After a 3-pointer from Encinal sophomore Drew Dozier, Lee Franklin nabbed another steal and found Kenneth Alexander breaking to the basket. Alexander rose above the crowd for a tomahawk jam that again incited the crowd to a near-riot, and the ’Jackets rode the momentum to a 41-38 halftime lead. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a team with more than one dunk in a season,” Gragnani said with a smile. “But we need to learn to use that athleticism within the team concept, and we’re still working on that.” 

Berkeley laid off the fast-break action and pounded the ball inside after halftime, getting two inside baskets each from Alexander and Burns, along with a putback by Simmons. Although the Jets got within a point near the end of the quarter, a tip-in by Burl gave the ’Jackets a 41-38 lead heading into the final stanza. 

Berkeley then caught a break when Kindem and Danny Dozier each missed two free throws with a chance to tie the game. But Kindem hit a 3-pointer, then James Johnson got a steal and found Kindem on a breakaway. Burns caught up with Kindem but was called for an intentional foul, and Kindem made the free throws this time to tie the game at 43-43. 

The ’Jackets held Encinal to just one point until Drew Dozier hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in the game, by which time Berkeley had put the game away. Tate put the finishing touch on the win with another breakaway dunk, this time off an inbounds pass from Burns. The defensive stand impressed Gragnani, but he knows his team has a lot of work to do in upcoming games. 

“We aren’t consistent enough on defense,” he said. “We had defensive lapses, especially on the offensive boards. We gave them way too many second chances.”