Kennedy was the last hope of the night Saturday for public school girls basketball in the Sac-Joaquin Section championships at Sleep Train Arena.
And for nearly three quarters, the defending Division I champions from Greenhaven matched perennial section power St. Mary's of Stockton basket for basket.
But there is a reason the Rams are ranked No. 17 nationally by USA Today and No. 4 in California by Cal-Hi Sports.
They wear teams down with their talent, depth and versatility, and the top-seeded Rams did just that in beating the No. 3 Cougars 63-47 to capture their first D-I banner and section-leading 14th overall.
Brijanee Moore had 27 points and seven steals, dazzling Unique Coleman added 15 points and six rebounds, and Natalie Delgado had 11 points, including two three-point bank shots, for St. Mary's (29-2).
Katie Lee had 12 points and three assists, and Lynette Johnson, who played all 32 minutes despite tweaking an already gimpy right ankle in the first half, had nine points and 17 rebounds for Kennedy (24-6).
"I'm proud of our effort. I'm proud of my players," Cougars coach Dave Parsh said. "We executed the game plan pretty well, but I think we ran out of gas at the end. They are deep and in great shape."
Kennedy consistently broke down St. Mary's vaunted press and led or tied eight times. But after Dalayna Tyler-Scott's basket put the Cougars ahead 36-35 with four minutes to play in the third quarter, the Rams outscored Kennedy 28-11 the rest of the way. St. Mary's had 17 steals and forced 27 turnovers.
With St. Mary's being elevated to D-I and Sacramento High, a public charter school without enrollment boundaries, winning in D-II, private/charter schools swept all divisions for the second time in three seasons. Previous to St. Francis winning in 2011, only public schools had won D-I girls titles.
"St. Mary's is nationally renowned, so to get to battle a Goliath is a great opportunity for us," Parsh said. "But I'd like to see a level playing field. You don't see that many good athletes at a public school."
With St. Mary's likely headed to the new CIF Northern California Regional Open Division, Parsh said it may be easier for a public school program like his to compete for a NorCal D-I banner.
Bradshaw Christian 50, Bear River 40 Making 13 of 15 free throws in the final quarter, the third-seeded Pride (27-2) defeated the top-seeded Bruins (26-4) in a battle of two of the section's most successful girls programs.
Sophomore Erika Bean had 19 points and three steals, senior Ashlee Jones had 18 points and seven rebounds, and sophomore Jordyn Bell had nine points and 10 rebounds for Bradshaw Christian, playing its second season in D-IV.
Junior Kaitlyn Reina led Bear River with 19 points and nine rebounds despite missing nearly six minutes in the second half after rolling her right ankle.
Reina went out with her team leading 32-28 late in the third quarter. She returned midway through the fourth quarter, promptly hit a three-pointer to put Bear River ahead 39-38, then fouled out with 2:55 to play.
The Pride outscored the Bruins 20-6 in the final eight minutes.
For the Bruins, it was their 14th section title appearance, having won 10 times. This was Bradshaw Christian's fifth section title (four previously in D-V) in as many tries.