Lady ’Jackets get an easy win over Reno
Going into Saturday night’s game against Reno High, the Berkeley girls’ basketball team’s five-game winning streak seemed to be in serious jeopardy. After all, the ’Jackets were facing the defending Nevada state champs without one of their key players, freshman center Devanei Hampton, and senior star Sabrina Keys on the bench. Instead, it turned into yet another routine Berkeley victory.
The ’Jackets (12-7) jumped out to a 12-0 lead and never looked back against the smaller, slower Huskies (15-7). Although Reno would score the next seven points, Berkeley immediately pulled away with an 8-2 run on the way to a 58-38 win.
Keys, who didn’t start because she was late to the game, still scored 16 points with 8 rebounds to lead the ’Jackets. Fellow senior Angelita Hutton had 8 steals, including 5 in the second quarter alone, and scored 12 points, and point guard Shaquita Brown pitched in with 10 points.
Reno’s lone offensive threat was center Jessica Stewart, who scored 12 points on a variety of post moves. But with Stewart in foul trouble for much of the game, the Huskies couldn’t get anything going against the suffocating Berkeley press. The game could have been a huge blowout if the ’Jackets had executed better offensively, as they shot just 24-of-65 from the floor (36 percent).
“We should have converted more opportunities on offense,” Berkeley head coach Gene Nakamura said. “We missed an awful lot of two-footers.”
Even without the 6-foot-3 Hampton, who injured her knee last weekend, Nakamura’s squad dominated the boards, 32-23. Keys got support from Natasha Bailey and Myette Anderson, who each pulled down 5 rebounds, as Berkeley often seemed to be playing under the basket by themselves.
“It’s different without Devanei in there, because we know we can get every rebound between us,” Keys said. “But our other posts did really well tonight.”
Stewart gave the ’Jackets a bit of trouble inside, but guarding Keys while carrying her team offensively was too much to ask. She picked up her third foul midway through the second quarter with the score 20-14 in Berkeley’s favor, but when Stewart headed to the bench, the ’Jackets immediately went on a run, scoring 6 points in less than 30 seconds. And although Stewart scored 6 points in the third quarter to keep her team within 10 points of Berkeley, a 7-0 run to start the final quarter for Berkeley put the game away.
The final minutes of the game turned into a highlight reel for Berkeley. Keys hit an NBA-range 3-pointer with the shot clock running out, then freshman guard Danisha Wright made a couple of crowd-pleasing moves. The 5-foot-0 bit of quicksilver drove the lane for a falling layup, then went inside again for a running putback at the buzzer, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Nakamura appreciated Wright’s spectacular plays, but he was also pleased with the general play of his bench, a traditional Berkeley strength that hasn’t always been reliable this season.
“Danisha has flashes of brilliance, but she also sometimes goes in and has problems,” Nakamura said. “But our reserves have been getting better. These games are good because I like putting different people in pressure situations and see how they react.”