Head coach Leroy Hurt and assistant coach Jasmine Braggs stood on the Oakland Technical High School track last fall, dishing out the scoop on their loaded girls basketball roster before a home football game.
Of course, there were senior guards Erin Sellers and Mari Somvichian, the electric scorers who lifted the North Oakland high school to its second consecutive CIF state championship last season; senior post player Sophia Askew-Goncalves, who fills Instagram highlight reels with slick passes and emphatic blocked shots; senior defensive dynamites and havoc creators Nia Hunter and sisters Jala and Jada Williams; and freshmen Jhai Johnson and Terri’A Russell, each standing above 6 feet and giving the Bulldogs as much talent as any team in California.
No pressure, coach.
There was one player, however, Hurt made sure didn’t get overlooked. “Watch out for Taliyah,” he said of the team’s reserve wing player.
Last Tuesday, four months after the coach’s proclamation, Hurt inserted Taliyah Logwood into the starting lineup when Askew-Goncalves badly sprained her ankle before the opening-round game of the Division I state tournament against Sacramento’s McClatchy High School. “I had to pick it up for my team,” Logwood said.
Logwood was assessed a foul in the opening minute for setting a hard screen that leveled the McClatchy defender. Illegal screen? Just hard-nosed basketball? Either way, a message was received: Oakland Tech means business in this 2023 state championship tournament. With Tech’s lead down to one point early in the fourth quarter, Logwood hit a 3-pointer to open an 8-0 run for the Bulldogs. The junior scored 12 of her game-high 25 points in the final frame as second-seeded Tech avoided the first-round upset.
“I knew I had to give it my all until the end of the game,” said Logwood, standing feet away from courtside celebrities including 49ers quarterbacks Josh Johnson (a Tech graduate) and Trey Lance, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters (a McClymonds graduate), and Oakland rapper and hyphy movement pioneer Mistah F.A.B. “I don’t normally shoot 3s, but I was open and it went in. In the fourth quarter, that’s really our quarter. We dominate that quarter.”
Hurt praised Logwood’s effort but was frustrated at his player’s penchant for committing fouls.
“Taliyah is an incredible player,” said Hurt, a 1989 Tech graduate, after shaking hands with the McClatchy players. “I got to keep her on the floor. Foul trouble… You reach here, reach there. We got to stay away from that. If we can do that, we’re pretty good.”
Logwood had quit playing basketball altogether during the pandemic before Somvichian and Askew-Goncalves helped recruit their former summer hoops pal to the Broadway campus. Hurt understood Logwood’s potential as a player, if only she took care of business in class.
“When I got here it was a blessing for me because I stopped playing basketball for two years,” Logwood said. “So I was kind of rusty. Oakland Tech saved me from not going to school at all.”
Jada Williams led Tech with 13 points in a second-round victory Thursday over Pinewood High of Los Altos Hills. Jhai Johnson hit two 3-pointers during a fourth-quarter charge in a third-round victory Saturday night over San Ramon Valley High. All three games were played in front of a packed Tech gym.
Oakland Tech now visits top-seed St. Mary’s of Stockton at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The winner advances to the CIF Division I state championship game at 6 p.m. Friday at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, against the winner of Del Norte High of San Diego and Santiago High of Corona.
Oakland Tech lost twice to St. Mary’s this preseason, but the Bulldogs have a 17-1 record since. Now, the Bulldogs are two victories from graduating a senior class (Askew-Goncalves, Hunter, Sellers, Somvichian, and Jada and Jala Williams) that never lost a CIF postseason game.
Tech’s last postseason defeat was in 2019 to Oakland High in the CIF Oakland Section playoffs. Despite the loss, the Bulldogs still advanced to the state tournament and won the Division IV title, the school’s first state basketball title in any division since Alexis Gray-Lawson (now the school’s athletic director) and fellow star Devanei Hampton won Division I crowns in 2004 and 2005. In 2020, Tech returned to the state championship game (this time in Division II), but the contest was canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak. The 2021 tournament was also wiped out because of the pandemic, putting Tech’s title defense on hold for a second season.
Logwood joined Tech as a sophomore before the 2021-22 campaign, giving the team a 5-foot-9 wing who can guard multiple positions, has the size to bang in the post, and the speed to push fast breaks. Her athleticism and defense were key to Tech’s Division III title run, capped by Somvichian hitting a game-clinching 3-pointer in the state title game last March against La Salle of Pasadena.
Hurt has since challenged Logwood on the court and in the classroom.
“Leroy is probably the toughest coach I’ve ever met,” Logwood said of a mentor who reluctantly danced the Griddy at his players’ request following Tech’s state title-game victory last season. “I’ve been going hard in class. I have to listen to what he says because it’s what’s best for me.
“His words. His wisdom. He’s just a good coach.”
Logwood’s breakout performance this season came in a January victory over Heritage High of Brentwood at a showcase event hosted by WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu. Logwood had a unique triple-double of 37 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 steals, before smiling for photos with Ionescu, the former Miramonte High of Orinda star. The win boosted Tech into the top five of area basketball rankings.
“Basketball is my outlet to get all my energy out,” said Logwood, who carried Somvichian off the court after Thursday’s runaway victory. “That’s why I love this sport so much. It helps me a lot.
“Nobody knows that though.”