Berkley scored 18 second-half points in Tuesday’s OAA girls basketball crossover game against rival Royal Oak. Fortunately for the host Bears, 16 of them came in the crucial fourth quarter which carried them to a satisfying 32-29 victory.
“I don’t know if it was one of our best wins this year, but, given the circumstances, it was a great win for us,” said Berkley head coach Jordan Gruper, whose team hiked its record to 6-3 overall. “We got into a few holes that we were able to battle back from.
“It’s always a tough game every year when we go against Royal Oak,” he said. “And, we were able to finish it out and it is a great thing for us to build on in the future. I’m proud of the way the girls battled back.”
The Bears trailed 23-16 heading into the final eight minutes. However, Berkley put up just as many points in the final quarter as they did in the first three combined to register the three-point win.
Junior guard Celia Somers led the way down the stretch with a clutch trey to bring the Bears within a point at 27-26 with one minute left. A lay-up by senior Eliza Larimee gave Berkley a 28-27 lead, an advantage it wouldn’t relinquish. Somers finished the game off by canning all four or her free throws.
Royal Oak’s lone counter during that pivotal Berkley run was a pair of free throws by Gianna Valente.
“At the end, Somers hit a huge three, they made their free throws and give them credit because they made the plays down the stretch,” said Royal Oak head coach Brian Sopata. “We had multiple chances to execute, but we didn’t.
“It’s the old adage, you have to play good for all 32 minutes,” he said. “We played pretty good defensively for about 31 minutes. Our execution down the stretch wasn’t good enough, and their execution was. I give them credit. They played to the final whistle.”
Somers led all players with 13 points – seven of which came in the game’s final minute of play. She also posted three assists.
Junior center Zoe Anderson finished with seven points and five rebounds for Berkley. Sophomore Makoya Denham – who had the key assist on Larimee’s late basket – and junior Mary McClure each finished with four points.
Senior Grace Hammerle hauled down five rebounds for the Bears. She also had a critical steal in the final 30 seconds to help keep Royal Oak off the scoreboard.
“I think the biggest difference for us (in the fourth quarter) is that we actually came out and attacked the basket,” said Gruppen. “Our defense created opportunities for us on the offense end and we went and finished. That was a big thing for us.
“We weren’t necessarily going to the basket like we can (through the first three quarters. Royal Oak was playing some great defense on us so you have to give them credit for that. But, we were not doing what we normally do on offense, but we brought it back in the fourth quarter and that was great for us.
“I thought Celia came out and played really hard in the fourth quarter, battling back from some adversity that she faced earlier in the game,” he said. “It’s a good thing for her to build on. The girls follow her and there’s no doubt about that.”
Royal Oak did not have any one reach double figures.
Valente finished with a team-high nine points, followed by Bailey Haran with seven and senior center Allison Karpinski with five. Haren had Royal Oak’s lone second-quarter basket – a trey with two seconds left which lifted her squad to a 15-14 halftime lead.
Royal Oak (3-4) begins OAA Blue Division action Friday with a home game against Rochester. Berkley is at Southfield for an OAA Gold Division match up on Friday.