EL CERRITO -- Jabari Bird scored 20 points as the visiting Salesian High boys basketball team used a 17-1 run bridging the second and third quarters to earn a 61-48 Tri-County Athletic League Rock Division win over El Cerrito on Tuesday.
El Cerrito (16-8, 6-2 TCAL Rock) was able to hang with the top team in Northern California for a quarter, taking a 13-12 lead after one. However, the Gauchos were not able to fully take advantage of sloppy ball-handling by Salesian (19-3, 8-0), which committed turnovers on four of its first five possessions in the game.
The Pride finished with nine turnovers in the first quarter and 31 in the game.
"Those empty possessions," lamented El Cerrito coach Michael Booker. "We'd get steals, we'd get deflections and we'd come down here and we'd miss a layup, we'd miss a jumper. Empty possessions equal scores for them.
"That's the No. 1 team in Northern California. We've got some stuff we have to work on but we'll be OK."
Salesian coach Bill Mellis also had some laments — 31 of them specifically.
"We've had a stretch of games where we haven't gotten off to the best start," Mellis said. "We have been settling in. Once the dust settles, we've been able to be OK in the second and third quarter. For a team that has 19 wins, we certainly do not think that we are clicking on all cylinders. We still have some work to do.
"We can't commit 31 turnovers and win in the open division (of the state tournament). It just isn't going to work out that way."
It worked out Tuesday. The Pride defense had a lot to do with that, forcing 28 turnovers by the Gauchos.
In the second quarter, El Cerrito went from shooting the ball inside to shooting the ball outside — the Gauchos were 5 of 13 from 2-point range in the first and 1 of 4 in the second versus 1 of 1 from 3-point range in the first to 0 of 6 in the second.
Markel Leonard added 12 points for Salesian. Tyrell Alcorn came off the bench for the Gauchos and scored 10.