OAKLAND — After winning the 2022 Division III state championship last March, Oakland Tech women’s basketball coach Leroy Hurt sat in the winner’s press conference and told the room, “We’re a DI school, we should be with the DI teams”.
Tech had just won its second Division III title in four years, and the Bulldogs also reached the 2020 Division II final, which was canceled because of the pandemic. The team felt as if they had proven themselves too good for the lower levels of competition.
On Thursday night, the Hurt girls showed the state that their trust was warranted. Now second in Division I NorCal, Tech edged perennial title contender Pinewood 63-37 in the quarterfinals and allowed just 12 points in the second half.
Oakland Tech beat McClatchy-Sacramento 62-50 in the first round on Tuesday, and next is a home game on Saturday against San Ramon Valley, a team Tech defeated 70-45 in early January.
“We’re proving it,” Hurt said. “Winning here is going to be difficult for any team that comes here.”
Leading 41-30 going into the fourth quarter, Tech began to bury a six-man Pinewood squad with one layup after another. Senior Jada Williams was unstoppable on the open court, scoring four layups in five possessions as the lead grew ever larger.
Most of these counters were started by a disciplined man-to-man Tech defense that didn’t let Pinewood score a field goal in the fourth quarter until less than two minutes remained in the game. Pinewood’s every cut, transfer, and misdirection was immediately covered by the Bulldogs.
“We couldn’t run our sets with any degree of fluidity or polish because their defense had been watching us so well,” said Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler.
Tech scored the first 19 points of the quarter, a run cut short by a Pinewood free throw with 1:50 left in the game. By this time, the celebrations had already begun in the packed Tech stands and on the Bulldog bench.
“We call it the ‘doghouse’ for a reason,” senior guard Mari Somvichian said of the standing-only crowd. “We feel like the whole city is behind us.”
Pinewood managed to stay with Tech in the first half, buoyed by a save that kept Tech without a point for the first four minutes of the second half. When Ava Uhrich hit a three-pointer, Tech’s lead dropped to 18-16.
Although Pinewood kept things close for the rest of the quarter, Tech never relinquished the lead. Jhai Johnson made a layup, and then Nia Hunter made a three-pointer to push Tech’s lead to seven points. The team went into the locker room with a three-point advantage, and soon took over in the second half.
Erin Sellers and Jada Williams each scored 11 points for Tech (27-5), Jala Williams scored 10 points and Taliyah Logwood scored eight. Pinewood’s Uhrich scored 18 points and hit four three-pointers.
Scheppler’s side, which had three players sidelined with ACL injuries and another three ineligible to play post-transfer, appeared to run out of steam in the second half. Pinewood (17-12) defeated Acalanes in the first round of the playoffs.
“I am so proud of the girls,” said Scheppler. “I am happy and proud of my team.”
A few minutes after teammates carried her off to celebrate, Somvichian was blunt in describing Tech’s plan for the coming days.
“We are coming for our respect,” Somvichian said. “I don’t think anyone thought we could stay in the top flight, but we’ve already won two games. Let’s keep our heads down, stay humble and keep moving forward.”
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