Berkeley girls end Kennedy's season in first round of state playoffs

Published: Thursday, Mar. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C

Kennedy has history with Berkeley, one of the state's historic girls high school basketball programs.

Entering Wednesday night's CIF Northern California Regional Division I playoffs, the Cougars had played Berkeley four times in the last six years and lost each time – twice in NorCal championship games, including last season at Sleep Train Arena, once in the semifinals and another time in the quarterfinals.

But the No. 5-seeded Cougars figured their chances were better this time.

No. 12 Berkeley had to play in Greenhaven after a rare "down" season by its standards. The Yellowjackets lost in the North Coast Section semifinals and, with no player taller than 5-foot-11, struggled against teams with a dominant post player.

Kennedy had come off a strong performance against nationally ranked St. Mary's of Stockton before falling in the Sac-Joaquin Section championship game on Saturday and had size with 6-2 post Dalayna Tyler-Scott and 5-10 do-it-all forward-guard Lynette Johnson, both seniors.

But there is a reason Berkeley has won an all-time-leading 11 NorCal girls titles.

The Yellowjackets hounded Kennedy's ballhandlers from start to finish, contested almost every shot and consistently scored on dazzling runners, layups and jumpers to win 53-40.

Sophomore Jaimonie Welch-Coleman had 17 points, junior Desire Finnie 15 and senior standout Rachel Howard had 14 and a bunch of floor burns as Berkeley (19-12) moves on to the quarterfinals.

Tyler-Scott led Kennedy (24-7) with 13 points, and Johnson, playing through the pain of a gimpy right foot, had nine points on 3-of-17 shooting in a disappointing finish to a brilliant four-year career.

"I don't think we were prepared for the Bay Area style of play," said Johnson, who has seen her season end three times with losses to Berkeley. "Their aggression, and pressure – I think it got into our heads.

"They play a completely different style than what we're used to here and in the Valley. And I don't think it's something you can really prepare for."

Kennedy coach Dave Parsh said his team's inability to handle the ball and a failure to better exploit Berkeley inside were the biggest factors in the loss.

"We've had our problems with quick and aggressive teams this season," Parsh said. "We had too many turnovers (16) and didn't shoot well (13 of 39), especially from the foul line (13 of 24)."

Berkeley led only 22-18 at the half but broke it open by outscoring the Cougars 20-8 in the third quarter. The Yellowjackets made 7 of 13 from the floor, including two three-pointers and two free throws while limiting Kennedy to just five shots from the field.

Johnson had no complaint that the two teams that played last year for the D-I NorCal championship had to meet this year in the first round.

"I was excited," said Johnson, who finishes her career having scored 1,559 points. "It was unfinished business. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish it, but it's been a good ride."

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