Team elders score 61 of ’Jackets’ season-high 98 points vs. De Anza
It was Senior Night at Berkeley High’s Donahue Gym on Friday night, as the ’Jackets played their last home game of the season. But while four of the six seniors honored before the game aren’t used to starting or even playing very much, they put together an inspired performance against the overmatched De Anza Dons, scoring 43 of the team’s 53 points in the first half and nearly breaking the 100-point barrier with a 98-45 win.
Senior Jesse Alter led the ’Jackets with 16 points, his season-high, with classmate Garland Albert scoring 14, also his top effort of the season. All six seniors scored at least 5 points.
“This is the first time we’ve gotten to play together,” senior Lee Franklin said. “The key was for us to come out and have fun, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Berkeley got off to a quick start, running out to a 24-10 lead after just six minutes of play. Franklin hit a breakaway layup to finish the run, the last senior to break into the scoring column. Center Damien Burns, Berkeley’s leading scorer, may have finished with just 8 points, but he got the crowd going early with two huge dunks, and senior guards Madiou Diouf and Daryl Perkins pitched in with 3-pointers before the underclassmen got a shot with 40 seconds left in the quarter.
“This was their night,” Berkeley head coach Mike Gragnani said of his graduating class. “They worked as a unit all week in practice, and they came out here with something to prove.”
The seniors were on the bench for just over a minute of game time, as Gragnani didn’t like what he saw from his second unit and put the starters back in early in the second quarter.
“(The reserves) came in and dropped the ball compared to what the seniors were doing,” Gragnani said. “That’s not acceptable.”
The seniors pushed the lead to 39-17 before K.K. Alexander scored on a short jumper, the first underclassman to score for Berkeley. The game was pretty well decided by that time, with the Dons simply unable to get quality shots against the bigger, faster ’Jackets.
They might not have been quality shots, but De Anza’s Tristan Newsome still managed to heave up a truckload of bombs. He was just 9-of-26 from the floor, but Newsome just kept jacking up shots from all over the court, finishing with a game-high 23 points.
Berkeley almost managed to score in triple figures with a late surge. The seniors returned for one last run with a 86-37 lead with less than two minutes left in the game and came up just one basket short. Albert, who was fouled on two dunk attempts during the last final minute, hit a 3-pointer with just 20 seconds left, but Gragnani ordered his team to back off and allow the Dons to run out the clock.
“Coach wanted to show some class, so he told us to lay back,” Franklin said. “It would have been nice to get 100 points, though.”
Berkeley clinched a tie for the league championship with Pinole Valley, but the Spartans get the league’s automatic bid to the North Coast Section playoffs due to a tie-breaker determined before the season began. Gragnani will head to the seeding meeting on Sunday morning to apply for an at-large bid, which the ’Jackets are expected to receive.
“We’re projected at a five- or six-seed,” Gragnani said. “I’d love the fifth seed, but it doesn’t really matter who we play. It’s how we play that matters.”
Alter said that while he was “ecstatic” with Friday night’s home finale, he’s anxious to get into the post-season.
“I’m so ready for playoff time,” he said. “We’re going to play as a team, we’re going to play together, and that’s what it takes to win.”