The Town’s Top High School Hoops Teams Shine on Historic Night for Oakland Tech

A group of basketball players surround a coach in an indoor game
Lady Bulldogs head coach Leroy Hurt, an Oakland Tech alumnus, huddles up his team before their game against Oakland High. Photo by Tony Daquipa.

It was an incredible night for the Oakland Tech family.

The culmination of “Swish Week” at the North Oakland public school last Friday night was historic and celebratory. With new paint on the gym walls, and throngs of alumni reminiscing past glory, the best basketball teams in the city got a taste of what high school hoops in Oakland used to be like, and delivered performances worthy of the Town’s athletic legacy. 

“It was great,” said Tech boys basketball coach Karega Hart. “I was happy to see a lot of our former players that were really good.” The Tech alumnus added that he was glad that the players got to experience what he likened to the game day environments of the 80s and 90s when he was growing up in Oakland: “Playing in packed gyms because the talent level was that high.”

The Tech girls basketball team started the evening by dominating the visiting Oakland High Wildcats in a 72-24 rout. 

Hart’s team, on the other hand, barely eeked out a hard-fought 81-79 nail-biter over an O-High boys team looking to avenge a section finals loss to Tech last season. Coach Hart described the rematch as “highly anticipated.” After an emotional induction ceremony that celebrated Tech’s rich history of athletic excellence, the rival high school teams delivered an epic performance that came down to the final possession in overtime.

Oakland Tech Girls, Reigning State Champions, Dominant in League Play

The California Interscholastic Federation organizes an annual state championship tournament that pits the top teams from Southern California against the top teams from Northern California. Coach Leroy Hurt’s (Like Hart, Hurt is also a Tech alumnus) Lady Bulldogs have won back-to-back state titles that bookended the pandemic-related cancellation of the annual event in 2020 and 2021. They’ve won three NorCal titles in a row.

 The Tech girls won their first state title in 2004, and followed that up with another in 2005.

This year’s team features seven seniors, three of whom are starters: guards Mari Somvichian and Erin Sellers, and forward Sophia Askew-Goncalves. They have a 15-5 record thus far.

The 48 point margin of victory over the Wildcats on Friday wasn’t exactly a surprise, as the reigning state champs won their first two Oakland Athletic League games by an average of 67 points. So kudos to O-High for lowering that average, but the Lady Bulldogs are clearly in a league of their own.

Alumni Honored

A smiling African American man wearing a grey beanie points to crowd inside a basketball gymnasium
49ers quarterback Josh Johnson took time off from preparing for the team’s divisional playoff game to be inducted into the Oakland Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Photo by Tony Daquipa.

After the girls game, Tech honored 23 of their alumni with an induction ceremony for the inaugural classes of the school’s Sports Hall of Fame, Hall of Distinction, and Hall of Honor. Many of the inductees are still involved with the school in various ways.

There was a moment of silence for Delton Edwards, who passed away in 2021. Edwards coached the Tech football team for 15 years, and was among the seven alumni inducted into the Hall of Honor.

Current varsity football head coach Virdell Larkins, who played for Edwards, was among the seven alumni inducted into the school’s Hall of Distinction.

Former WNBA players Dr. Alexis Gray-Lawson and Devanei Hampton, who were teammates on Tech’s 2004 and 2005 state championship teams, were among the nine alumni inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. Their coach on those championship teams, Pico Wilburn, was inducted into the Hall of Honor. Gray-Lawson is now the school’s Athletic Director.

Current 49ers quarterback Josh Johnson and his cousin, Super Bowl Champion Marshawn Lynch, were also inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Johnson is not only Lynch’s cousin, but he’s also the father of freshman basketball player Jhai Johnson, who represented Tech as the only female participant in the OAL Jamboree dunk contest held earlier this month. 

The elder Johnson was teammates with Lynch and Coach Larkins on the Bulldogs team that won the 2003 Silver Bowl (the OAL Championship game), but on the Tech campus, he is better known as Rosemary Whisenton’s son.

An African American woman is given a big bouquet or roses with many students and adults cheering her on
Oakland Tech girls volleyball coach and school treasurer Rosemary Whisenton gets her flowers as she is inducted into the inaugural class of the school’s Sports Hall of Honor. Photo by Tony Daquipa.

Whisenton, the long time school treasurer and head coach of the Tech girls volleyball team, was inducted into the Hall of Honor, and was the only alumni literally given her flowers during the ceremony. On a night not lacking in celebrities (several local elected officials were also in the crowd as well), Whisenton appeared to be the biggest star in attendance.

Whisenton is the “glue” of the Tech family, according to Coach Hart. He told Oakland Voices, “She gives her heart and soul to the school in a lot of different roles. She deserves all the appreciation. She’s helped a lot of kids who needed help.”

Boys’ Nailbiter Game Goes to Overtime, With Bulldogs Winning

With a record of 9-10, the Tech boys are still a work in progress. They played a very tough non-league schedule over the first two months of the season, but won their first three OAL games by an average of 34 points. After Friday’s victory, they sit alone atop the OAL boys division.

The Bulldogs are led by three seniors: Ahmaree Muhammad, Omar Staples, and Mahlik Smith. Smith is currently out with a knee injury, but Hart is hopeful that he can return in time for the playoffs. There are six other seniors, including Hart’s son, Cairo. 

Coach Hart knows that his Bulldogs are talented enough to compete with the best teams, but says they have lacked consistency so far. “We’re up and down, still trying to figure out how to buy-in to team ball.”

That was on full display on Friday night.

After the induction ceremony, it took a while to clear the court, but the standing room only crowd was eventually treated to a marquee matchup between two heavyweights that shared the league championship last year. The Tech and O-High boys teams are once again the cream of the crop in the OAL, and did not disappoint.

The Wildcats built a 15 point lead in the first half, but in the second half, the Bulldogs started chipping away at the lead. Coach Orlando Watkins’ O-High squad didn’t completely collapse, as they repeatedly grabbed key rebounds and hit big shots to keep Tech at bay. However, the bulldogs’ outside shooting kept them in the game, and their ramped up defense and clutch free throws proved to be the difference down the stretch.

The game was intense throughout, with players fighting for rebounds and diving for loose balls. There was even a bloody nose. In the end, the Bulldogs rallied from a double digit deficit to win an overtime thriller.

A rematch of last year’s Oakland Section finals, the two teams appear to be headed for yet another rematch in this year’s Section finals. However, they will first meet again in the regular season on February 8 at O-High.

An Asian American man wearing a purple sweatshirt that says "Tech Bulldogs" is coaching a basketball game
Oakland Tech coach Karega Hart has questions for the official scorer during the Bulldogs’ thrilling come-from-behind overtime victory over Oakland High. Photo by Tony Daquipa.
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Tony Daquipa is a dad, essential bureaucrat, photographer, urban cyclist, union thug, wannabe stonemason, karaoke diva, grumpy old man, storyteller, and preserver of history.

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