STOCKTON It wasn't a frantic fight to the finish like last season's showdown of Sac-Joaquin Section girls basketball powers, and that was just fine with a relieved Lynette Johnson.
Kennedy High School's standout senior leader talked this week about the dramatics and ecstasy of the 2012 Division I championship game against Oak Ridge, won by her Cougars in double overtime, that was a stressful affair right to the final horn.
Not the rematch.
Johnson scored 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, yanked down nine rebounds, had six assists and was a factor as a ballhandler and leader to key a 65-42 triumph over Oak Ridge in a semifinal at Pacific.
Kennedy and Oak Ridge both advance to the NorCal Regional playoffs that start next week.
First, though, Kennedy targets its sixth section championship in nine title appearances, all since 2001.
"OK, so this wasn't as fun as last year, but it was a great win and we played well," said the charismatic Johnson. "This was by far our best game. We're a family. Our chemistry has definitely evolved."
It's a staple for Dave Parsh-coached teams to share the ball, to hustle on defense and to make long-range shots, and all of that played out for Kennedy, which now takes on national power St. Mary's of Stockton on Saturday for the title at Sleep Train Arena. The Rams ripped Armijo 94-61 in the other semifinal and now seek their 13th championship at various levels since 1999.
Emerging post Dalayna Tyler-Scott had 16 inside points for the Cougars. Jessica Lauderdale scored eight points and had six assists for Kennedy (24-5).
Jenn Hoffman led Oak Ridge (25-4) with 10 points. The Trojans shot 34 percent and were outrebounded 33-19.
With Johnson leading the charge, Parsh likes his chances against St. Mary's.
"She's a dynamite player," Parsh said. "She's very poised and skilled."
Johnson said confidence will be the key against the Rams.
"We have to give them a challenge," she said. "A lot of teams go in intimidated against them. Can't do that."
Sacramento 52, Del Oro 31 Chaya Durr doesn't mind the extra motivation.
The Dragons' junior guard got an earful at the half from fiery coach Michele Massari for her pedestrian first two quarters (four points and two rebounds) with top-seeded Sacramento leading 23-15.
"I always start off slow for some reason," Durr said with a big smile. "Coach Michele was in the locker room yelling at me, 'We need you.' I hate to say that, but that helps me."
Did it ever.
Durr had eight points and three steals in little more than a two-minute span early in the third quarter, helping the Dragons (26-4) pull away from the No. 5 Golden Eagles (19-11).
The win advances the Dragons to their ninth consecutive section final the first at D-II after winning the last two D-III championships. The Dragons will play Florin, which defeated McNair 44-41 in Thursday's late semifinal, Saturday at 1 p.m. at Sleep Train Arena.
The speedy, 5-foot-10 Durr, a role player last season who has worked her way into a leadership role this season for the Dragons, finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and nine steals.
Senior Allie Green added 15 points and seven rebounds; 6-4 junior post Ayanna "Shaq" Edwards had seven points and 16 rebounds, and the Dragons collectively played strong defense in forcing Del Oro into 26 turnovers and 23 percent shooting (11 for 47) from the floor.
"When Chaya plays like that, nobody can stop her," Massari said. "Shaq was a beast, and Allie Green played with a fire in her eyes. Everyone played with a lot of fire."
Sophomore forward Lauren Heyn led Del Oro with seven points and 11 rebounds, but the Dragons limited Golden Eagles stars Brianna Ruiz and Stephanie Geyer to a combined nine points.
"Their athleticism turned the game and forced our hand a little bit," said Del Oro coach Mike Takayama. "In the first half, we did a good job of limiting the turnovers. But in the second half they had a spurt of steals that really hurt us. They took us out of our comfort zone."