With the crowd chanting M-V-P, McClymonds High's Tahjee Williams lived up to his billing.
The Oakland Athletic League's Most Valuable Player made several big plays down the stretch as the Warriors rallied past Oakland 52-49 to win the Oakland Section boys basketball championship game Thursday at Merritt College.
"It gave me that extra push to get my team the victory," Williams said of the chants from the standing-room only crowd.
Williams, a senior guard who scored a game-high 21 points, made his biggest plays when the Warriors (20-7) were trailing 49-44 with less than 2½ minutes to play. He picked up a steal and went coast to coast for a layup. He was fouled and made the free throw to cut the deficit to two.
Moments later, Williams picked off another pass and that led to a 3-pointer by Mike Walker to give Mack a 50-49 lead with 1:59 to go.
"Tahjee's been big for us all year," Mack coach Brandon Brooks said. "This is his first year playing varsity basketball. He's still in the learning stages, but he's so talented and athletic, I'm just blessed to have him on the floor."
Oakland (17-11) still had opportunities. On two occasions, the Wildcats were fouled and went to the line to shoot a one-and-one, but missed the front end.
Mack also missed the front end of a one-and-one with 30 seconds left and Oakland secured the ball. The Wildcats called a timeout with eight seconds to go, still trailing by a point.
Meshawn Beard got the ball at the top of the key and drove, but his high-arcing shot missed. Walker secured the rebound with two seconds left and made two free throws to ice the game.
Oakland now must beat KIPP King, champion of the Bay Area Charter School Athletic Conference, Saturday at 2 p.m. at Oakland Tech to earn a berth to the CIF Northern Regional playoffs. Mack has secured its NorCal bid and will find out Sunday if it will be selected to the Open Division or remain in Division I.
McClymonds 47, Oakland Tech 40: The Warriors used long-range shooting to gain a first-quarter lead and never trailed to make history in the Oakland Section title game at Merritt College.
Warriors coach Dennis Flannery said it had been at least 37 years since the McClymonds girls squad had won a section title.
"We're part of history," said McClymonds senior Ahjahna Coleman, who had two 3-pointers in a key first-quarter run and finished with 11 points.
The Warriors (25-3) had four 3-pointers in the first quarter, with the last of them by Gabby Gaines giving them a 16-8 lead in the final minute of the quarter. McClymonds had eight 3-pointers in the game, three each by Gaines and Coleman.
Oakland Tech (21-6) rallied from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter and cut McClymonds' lead to 44-40 with 16 seconds left on a basket by Ameela Li. But Romanalyn Inocencio hit a free throw on the ensuing possession, and Gaines hit two free throws with one second left.
Oakland Tech now must beat KIPP King, champion of the BACSAC, Saturday at noon at Oakland Tech to earn a berth to the Northern Regional playoffs.
-- Phil Jensen