Berkeley High’s girls basketball team, the Lady Yellowjackets, started strongly against Mater Dei in Saturday night’s state championship game in Sacramento, leading 16-15 at the end of the first quarter. But the Southern California team, ranked fifth in the country, used a swarming, tenacious defense and solid offensive play to beat the Jackets, 57-40, in a repeat of the 2011 championship game.
Junior Rachel Howard led the Jackets in scoring, with 12 points. Senior Elisa Davis, who has been the team’s consistent scorer and leader all season, often found herself double and triple teamed — she finished with 10 points, with only two field goals. Mater Dei was led by the California player of the year Nirra Fields, who finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
The first quarter promised so much more. Both teams seemed to be able to drive up the floor and score easily, but as the quarter wore on, the Jackets inched ahead, 16-15. Mater Dei rearranged its defense for the second quarter and went off on a tear, outscoring the Jackets, 14-2. Although Berkeley found some of its composure in the second half, with 22 points, that dismal second quarter proved decisive. Easy layups and short jumpers constantly went astray for the Jackets, who shot 14 for 55 from the floor in the game.
Berkeley finished the season 27-3 with a third consecutive Norcal championship.
You can get some sense of the ebb and flow of the game from Berkeleyside’s live tweets from courtside.
View a full set of photographs of the game, taken by BUSD’s Mark Coplan.