West Coast Jamboree: Platinum semifinals

Due to a severe space crunch in the paper, I had to keep my story on Carondelet’s thrilling 64-62 win over Berkeley in the Platinum semifinals of the West Coast Jamboree short and sweet. Here’s a little more on what happened tonight in the semifinal between arguably the two best girls basketball teams in the East Bay, as well as the other semifinal between Long Beach Poly and Georgetown-Texas.

Hannah Huffman and Erica Payne were the heroes for the Cougars tonight, but freshman guard Natalie Romeo had an outstanding game as well. She had 16 points — many on fast breaks after picking the pocket of a Berkeley player — and played particularly well in the second quarter to keep Carondelet in the game after falling behind 25-19.

“Natalie Romeo was absolutely fantastic,” Huffman said. “On the defensive end, offensively, her motor never stopped. She did not play like a freshman at all. We can do a lot of things when she plays like that.”

Rachel Howard, coming off the bench for Berkeley, had 13 points, including a jumper with 2:18 left that got the Yellowjackets to within 60-58 of Carondelet after being down by 11 earlier in the quarter. Howard also had a big stealĀ  in the final minute, but Berkeley came up empty on the ensuing possession.

In the late semifinal, Long Beach Poly — ranked No. 2 in the country in various polls — held off Georgetown of Texas 65-53. The Jackrabbits played most of the second half without star Ariya Crook-Williams, a USC signee and the No. 15 prospect in the 2011 class. Crook-Williams was charged with a flagrant foul and ejected.

Now this is of note to Carondelet fans, who will play Poly for the Platinum Division championship Thursday at 7:30 at Deer Valley High. Under North Coast Section rules, any player that is ejected from a game must also sit the following contest. But since Crook-Williams’ Long Beach Poly team is from the Southern Section and this was a tournament game that just happened to be held at an NCS school (Deer Valley), tournament directors can use their discretion. The West Coast Jamboree organizers got together after the Poly-Georgetown game and agreed that Crook-Williams’ foul was not worthy of an ejection. So as of now, she is set to play tomorrow against the Cougars, according to Jamboree directors Harold Abend and Dave Jackson.

Fun fact: Berkeley’s Brittany Boyd and Crook-Williams are friends after rooming together at the Team USA Under-18 trials this past June. Watch the two point guards play in back-to-back games and you’ll see a lot of similarities in their games. It would have been fun to see them square off, but that will happen next year in Pac-10 play when Boyd is at Cal and Crook-Williams at USC.

Lastly, Bishop O’Dowd and St. Mary’s both won tonight and will face each other for fifth place Thursday at 4:30. Lots and lots of good young talent in that one between St. Mary’s freshmen Gabby Green and Mikayla Cowling and O’Dowd sophomores K.C. Waters, Oderah Chidom and Ariell Bostick. Berkeley plays Georgetown for third place.

Stephanie Hammon