SACRAMENTO — A landmark season for the Oak Ridge girls basketball team came to a disappointing close Saturday at Sleep Train Arena in the CIF NorCal Division I Championship.
The Trojans let an 8-0 lead against Berkeley slip away and a late rally wasn’t enough as the Yellow Jackets held off Oak Ridge for a 56-45 victory. At one point, Berkeley led 40-15 midway through the second quarter. Though the Trojans rallied to within nine points they were unable to complete the comeback.
“I hate this word, but I’d use the word ’embarrassed’ in the first half. But they really started, in the second half, to give everything they had, and that’s what we were asking them to do. They left everything out there,” Oak Ridge coach Steve White said.
Nikki Dow’s layin and two Ali Bettencourt three-pointers gave Troy the early advantage but the Yellow Jackets took over from there and led 18-9 at the end of the first period. Turnovers were a problem for Oak Ridge all night — 21 of them — while only forcing nine.
Behind the play of Rachel Howard (23 points) and Desiree Finnie, Berkeley established total control in the second quarter despite the efforts of Bettencourt and Yumi Drossos. Oak Ridge trailed 31-15 at halftime.
The Trojans attempted to climb back in the third quarter but the Yellow Jackets came out with the hot hand to go up 25. Bettencourt stopped the bleeding with a jump shot and Michelle Barkley (10 points, 14 rebounds) put through a layup as Troy inched to within 16 points but Berkeley led 43-25 heading to the final quarter.
Oak Ridge made its last push in the fourth as Barkley opened the quarter with a layup, putback and a free throw and when Shelby Peters collected an offensive rebound and scored the Trojans trailed by only 13 points.
With Bettencourt’s steal and layin, Barkley’s block on one end and Bettencourt’s free throw on the other and Jenn Hoffman’s corner three, Oak Ridge was within 10 with 2:10 left.
Berkeley countered on Finnie’s runner but Lauren Liebert answered with a deep three-pointer with 1:11 remaining. Forced to foul, the Trojans gave up pair of free throws but continued to pressure the Yellow Jackets on Drossos’ jumper and Hoffman’s layup but time was on Berkeley’s side as the school captured its 12th Nor Cal Championship.
“They’re a tough match. And for us to even have a chance to come back is key, and for the players who return it’s a lesson that if you play hard you’re never out of a game. Bottom line is you have to put two halves together against these guys,” White said.
Oak Ridge ends the season with a 30-5 record and return many key players next year, including Bettencourt, Barkley and Hoffman.