It was a game that No. 8 seed Gunn (21-7) never led and, after the first period, could only get as close as six points. True to their character all year, the Titans never quit.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team for how they performed this year," said Gunn head coach Sarah Stapp. "From where we were in the middle of the season to how we finished was an incredible ride. They battled throughout with a determination that I'll always remember."
One Gunn player who embodied that spirit was senior Claire Klausner, who scored all 15 of her points in the second half. From the moment she stepped onto the court as a freshman to the final seconds of her final game, Klausner competed with desire and dedication and nearly willed Gunn back into a game that at times looked hopeless.
Gunn came out jittery in the first period as No. 12 Berkeley (21-11) scored the first nine points of the game while the Titans could only muster two Meghan Mahoney free throws as the Yellow Jackets led 9-2 at the end of one.
In the second period, the Yellow Jackets extended the lead to 18-7 on the hot shooting of Rachel Howard, who led all scorers with 27 points, including four 3-pointers. Gunn cut the lead to 20-14 on baskets by Nora Shevick and Emily Redfield, but Berkeley pushed it back up to 26-16 at half.
The second half started out well for the Titans as a basket by Klausner and two free throws by Sarah Klem cut the lead to 26-20. Gunn had an opportunity to cut the lead further but couldn't convert and the Lady Jackets went on a 9-0 run keyed by a couple of big baskets by Howard to stretch the lead to 35-20.
After trading baskets and with the score 39-24, Gunn went on a 11-2 run that included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Zoe Zwerling to make it 39-28 going into the final period. Zwerling then added two free throws at the end of the run to cut the score to 41-35 with 5:20 remaining.
However, every time Berkeley needed a basket it got one and two quick baskets pushed the lead back up to 10 to dampen the Gunn rally.
With 2:59 to go, Olivia Tapia made two free throws to make it 45-37 but Howard answered with her final trey to put Berkeley up by 11.
Trailing 50-39 with two minutes left, Gunn went on a 7-2 run as Klausner hit a trey and then made a layup with 40 seconds to go to cut the score to 52-46.
After a missed free throw by Berkeley, Gunn had one final chance but Tapia's 3-pointer with 20 seconds left just missed the mark and Berkeley's Jaimonie Welch-Coleman made two free throws for the final points of the game.
Gunn was led by Klausner's 15 points, followed by seven from Redfield, six from both Klem and Mahoney, five apiece by Zwerling and Tapia and two from Shevick.
As the game ended the appreciative Gunn crowd applauded the efforts of the Titans, who went further than many thought they would.
The game marked the end for Klausner, Shevick, Klem, Redfield, Karissa Ogawa and Isabel Juang. They leave as the most-decorated seniors to ever play for Gunn as they earned three trips to the Central Coast Section finals, won two section championships, made three appearances in the NorCal playoffs and advanced to the NorCal semifinals twice.
Gunn reached the semifinals with a big 45-41 upset of No. 1 seed Monte Vista in the quarterfinals last Saturday night in Danville.
"I couldn't be more proud of my girls," said an ecstatic Stapp after the game. "This might be my best win ever. What really made it great was the fantastic turnout by our fans, they made a difference."
While the game was played more than 50 miles away and Monte Vista had a sizable turnout, the energy level of the Gunn fans could be heard throughout the evening.
Gunn has played in many big games including last year's Central Coast Section final win over Palo Alto, but no game has come close to comparing to this battle with an athletic Monte Vista team that has had a long history of playoff success and who many considered to be the odds on favorite to represent Northern California in the CIF Division I state finale.
It was a game that the Titans led for more than 25 minutes and at one time had a 12-point lead over the stunned Mustangs and their faithful following. However, the Mustangs came back and took a lead with a little over a minute to go on a four-point play.
Klausner then put the Titans up for good with a three-pointer with 47 seconds to go and then Klem iced the game when she scored on a breakaway layup with 11 seconds left after a Monte Vista turnover.
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