It was a common occurrence at Berkeley High girls basketball games this season.

Yellowjackets senior Brittany Boyd would be playing defense, then before her opponents knew it, the speedy point guard had the ball and was already at the other end of the court converting an open layup.

Whether she was picking pockets or intercepting passes, Boyd was a constant pest on defense, averaging nearly seven steals a game for the North Coast Section and California Interscholastic Federation Northern regional Division I champions.

"I love defense," said Boyd, who led Berkeley to a 31-2 record. "Defense is what gets my offense started."

As the most important player for the Division I state finalists, Boyd has been named the Bay Area News Group-East Bay Player of the Year.

But defense isn't the only area where Boyd shined.

"The main thing that puts her ahead of others is her basketball IQ, her ability to see the floor and her ability to finish shots when the team needs it," Berkeley coach Cheryl Draper said.

In other words, she had all the qualities to run the Yellowjackets' offense expertly.

The 5-foot-6 Boyd describes herself as a throwback, pass-first point guard, but she still led the Yellowjackets in scoring at 15.7 points per game. She also averaged over five assists per game, and when she was on, the Yellowjackets were difficult to stop.

One of her most impressive efforts came against defending state champion Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills in the second round of the regional playoffs. With Boyd leading the offense and defense, the Yellowjackets needed just 11 minutes to score their first 44 points. She finished with 20 points, 10 steals, nine rebounds and seven assists.

"Brittany is very good at making people around her better," Draper said. "Her ability to see the floor ... she can actually see what's going to happen two to three plays ahead. You want your point guard as not only someone who plays offense but is a tremendous off-the-ball defender."

Next season, Boyd will take her game just up the road to Cal.

Though she'll be less than a mile away from the Berkeley High campus, Draper already knows how much she'll miss Boyd -- and not only her basketball skills.

"Just that Brittany swagger, her competitiveness, her desire to want to put the team on her shoulders," Draper said. "She's a true point guard, and a true point guard is hard to find."

girls basketball player of the year
brittany boyd/berkeley