The Yellowjacket bench erupts in joy as the team clinches its first NorCal championship since 1921. Photo: Gary Jones

When the Yellowjackets boys basketball team last won a NorCal championship, Woodrow Wilson had just handed over the White House to Warren Harding, Babe Ruth had completed one season with the Yankees, and the founding of the precursor to the National Basketball Association was still 24 years in the future. But memories of 1921 can now be safely shelved at Berkeley High, because the Yellowjackets are the 2016 Division 1 NorCal champions after defeating Menlo-Atherton 61-51 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Saturday night.

On Thursday, the team travels back to Sacramento to face SoCal champ Crespi-Encino for the state title. 

Niles Malone drives to the basket in NorCal Div. 1 championships on Saturday. Photo: Gary Jones

Four Yellowjackets scored in double figures: Niles Malone with 18, Bryan Morris with 17, Bryant Monroe with 14 and Sean Spikes with 11. At the start of the fourth quarter, Berkeley High had a narrow 40-39 lead. But Malone’s quick six points at the start of the quarter gave the Yellowjackets a lead they never relinquished.

Monroe led both teams with nine rebounds.

The Yellowjackets had defied the tournament seeding in their last three games. In the second round, the seventh-seeded Jackets edged second-seeded Jesuit, 62-59. In the semifinals, they handled third-seeded Monte Vista, 64-52. Menlo-Atherton were the fifth seed in the NorCal tournament.

Crespi, the number one seed, defeated second-seed Redondo Union in overtime 66-63 in Saturday’s SoCal finals. Crespi will enter Thursday’s state title game boasting a 32-4 record. The Jackets are 24-8.

The Berkeley High Yellowjackets savor their first NorCal championship in 95 years. Photo: Gary Jones

Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing. And make sure to bookmark Berkeleyside’s pages on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t need an account on those sites to view important information.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...