SACRAMENTO -- The Berkeley High girls basketball team fell behind 16-4 in the first quarter and never caught up in a 46-28 loss to Long Beach Poly on Friday in the California Interscholastic Federation Division I championship game at Sleep Train Arena.
Yet it was the second quarter that was on the mind of Berkeley coach Cheryl Draper after the game. The Yellowjackets (22-12) limited the Jackrabbits (30-5) to four points in the quarter, but Berkeley scored only three to trail 20-9 at halftime.
"Every time we play in a (state) championship game, we find it difficult to score in the second quarter," Draper said.
Berkeley kept Long Beach Poly to 20-percent shooting from the field in the first half, but shot only 13-percent itself and was 1 for 17 in the second quarter.
"I think in the first half they got into our heads," said Berkeley senior Rachel Howard.
Howard opened the second half's scoring with a 3-pointer to cut the Jackrabbits' lead to eight. But Poly's Arica Carter answered with a 3-pointer of her own, starting a 17-8 Jackrabbits run to end the quarter.
Long Beach Poly coach Carl Buggs, a 1973 Castlemont graduate, said his team's strategy was two-fold.
"One, to limit the penetration of Jaimonie (Welch-Coleman). But the main thing was to make it difficult for Howard to get touches," Buggs said. "She can take over the game."
Howard finished with a team-high 11 points, but scored six of those in the fourth quarter. Those six came in a row to narrow Long Beach Poly's lead to 41-28 with 4:04 remaining. But the Yellowjackets would not score again.
Long Beach Poly controlled the key defensively in the game. It had five blocks in the game, including three by 6-foot Jada Matthews.
"We knew that they would be protecting the paint," Draper said. "We just got caught up in the speed of the game."
Matthews led all scorers with 14 points, and also grabbed eight rebounds.
Long Beach Poly improved its state championship game record to 5-1.
Berkeley tied the game early at 2-2 on a basket by Breona Eskridge.
But two free throws by Long Beach Poly's Tania Lamb started a 14-4 run to end the quarter.
Follow Phil Jensen at Twitter.com/JensenPhil.