With two minutes gone in Tuesday’s North Coast Section first-round game between St. Mary’s High and Antioch High in Berkeley, the visiting Panthers were up 4-3. Then the home Panthers turned up the heat.
A 20-2 run to finish the first quarter by St. Mary’s (26-2) essentially ended the game, as the St. Mary’s press caused turnovers in bunches. Antioch got back within seven points early in the third quarter, but a 10-1 answering run by St. Mary’s ended any hopes of a comeback. The win was St. Mary’s 20th in a row.
The St. Mary’s guard duo of DaShawn Freeman and John Sharper dominated the game. Sharper scored a game-high 26 points to go with 5 steals, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, while Freeman was all over the court, scoring 19 points while nabbing 8 steals and dishing out 6 assists. Center Simon Knight had 8 points and 10 rebounds.
Tyrone Witherspoon led Antioch with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks, with Sean Namanny pitching in with 14 points.
The 20-2 stomping that put Antioch (16-11) away was St. Mary’s at its best. Freeman got things going with a steal and layup, then lasered a pass to Knight for an open layup. Sharper swiped an Antioch pass for an easy score, and third guard Tim Fanning nailed a 3-pointer. Freeman stole another pass for a Sharper layup, and Knight even got into the thievery, grabbing a sloppy pass and finding freshman Larry Gurganious streaking ahead of the pack for a layup that ended the quarter.
“They’re tough on the ball, and they all play great defense,” Antioch head coach John Radford said of St. Mary’s. “We haven’t seen that kind of pressure anywhere before.”
St. Mary’s head coach Jose Caraballo was pleased with his team’s effort early, but lashed into them after they allowed Antioch to climb back within nine points at halftime.
“We pretty much took care of (Antioch) early, but the kids got a little lazy for a while,” Caraballo said. “But the only thing that matters is winning and playing on Friday.”
St. Mary’s won the Division IV state championship last season, and Caraballo moved them to the top level for a shot at the big boys. The Panthers will face third seed Bishop O’Dowd at home on Friday. The Dragons beat Berkeley High on a last gasp shot in their first-round game, and Caraballo didn’t seem to see them as much of a threat.
“(O’Dowd) has no height and no speed,” he said. “That’s a bad combo when you’re playing us. The kids are going to be fired up to play them.”