Marble Falls High School girls' basketball coach John Berkman (center) with his players and assistants after the Lady Mustangs secured Berkman’s 100th win as their coach. Courtesy photo
John Berkman picked up his 100th win as the Marble Falls High School girls’ basketball coach Dec. 7 in dramatic fashion.
The Lady Mustangs (7-5 overall, District 25-5A) defeated Belton 38-36 thanks to a 3-pointer by junior Tea Rodriguez, who made the shot right before the horn sounded.
Berkman, a 2001 Marble Falls graduate, had some classic battles with Belton as a player when the two schools were in the same district.
“For us, getting the win and the way we got it was a huge deal,” he said about the Dec. 7 game. “Our girls kept fighting and clawing back.”
The Lady Mustangs trailed 19-8 at the half but outscored the Lady Tigers (2-6, District 12-6A) 16-5 in the third period to tie it at 24-24 before going into the final period.
With 25 seconds left in the contest and trailing 36-35, Marble Falls called a timeout. Berkman instructed his players to run their regular offense while the seconds ticked away and they looked for one final open shot. Rodriguez faked a drive to get the defender to back off just enough for a better look at the basket before launching the ball.
“We had a lot of time,” Berkman said. “We didn’t have to panic. We worked the ball all the way around and back again. Tea was blessed to make the shot. When the clock is running out at the end of the half or at the end of the quarter, nobody panics. All the players touched the ball, and nobody panicked. I think that was big.”
Berkman is 100-60 as the Lady Mustangs coach and has some memorable wins over the years, including:
his Lady Mustangs coaching debut, a 65-35 victory against Wimberley on Nov. 11, 2016. “We played really well,” he said. “That first one is always a big deal.”
and the 55-54 win at Pflugerville Connally on a last-second shot Feb. 4, 2020, that made the Lady Mustangs the District 17-5A runners-up. “We fought and clawed for second place,” the coach said. “We had to overcome some significant things.”
Berkman credits past and present assistants and players, who all believed in his coaching philosophy. He noted that it doesn’t hurt to have some luck, too.
“The team gets hot at the right time,” Berkman said. “I think it says a lot about our players and the assistant coaches I’ve had. The players have to buy into what I’m putting on the table. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of those things while I’ve been at Marble Falls.”
Berkman played for his father, Larry Berkman, who amassed more than 500 career wins while coaching the Marble Falls boys’ team and at Conroe High School. The younger Berkman believes he contributed to 60 of those victories as a player.
“I’ve got a long way to go to get to that one,” he said of the 500-win mark. “Good coaches are successful for a reason. They connect with kids and buy into the system.”