If there was a season when the dynasty was ripe for failure, when the wheels might wobble and finally come off, it was this one.
Slowed much of the season by numerous injuries amid their usual brutal schedule, the St. Mary’s girls entered the playoffs in good health and spirit, complete and eager for more championships.
They used their trademark pressure defense, 3-point shooting and fast-break attack to pull away from McClatchy 73-57 Saturday night to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title at Pacific. The top-seeded Rams (20-8) of Stockton collected their 10th successive championship spanning different divisions and section-record 18th overall. The last five titles have come in D-I.
We were really banged up early, but we’re as healthy as we’re going to get, and the kids have played really hard. We’ll just keep doing our thing.
Tom Gonsalves, St. Mary’s girls basketball coach
How dominant? This is one of the greatest programs in section history, regardless of sport and gender. The Rams don’t get bored with winning, but there was no celebration, no dog pile after this victory. This is beyond old hat.
St. Mary’s has won 40 consecutive section playoff games, and the Rams are 72-2 in the section playoffs since 1999 and 83-6 since 1995.
The Rams’ Neenah Young had 27 points, making 4 of 5 3-pointers, and Naje Murray scored 16.
Jordan Cruz had 18 points, and Richelle Turney and Nia Lowery added 10 each for the second-seeded Lions (27-4).
“We were really banged up early, but we’re as healthy as we’re going to get, and the kids have played really hard,” St. Mary’s coach Tom Gonsalves said earlier in the week. “We’ll just keep doing our thing.”
The Rams’ thing is to wear teams out, quickly transforming a game into a rout.
“You have to play a perfect game to beat them,” McClatchy coach Jeff Ota said. “If there’s any letdown, it’s ‘Boom!’ A three-point game becomes a nine-point game just like that.”
St. Mary’s lacks an imposing record this season, especially by its lofty standards. The Rams had 30 or more wins in six of the last nine seasons and last season went 28-1 with a No. 1 national ranking. St. Mary’s has won four state titles in that stretch.
McClatchy entered the playoffs as The Sacramento Bee’s top-ranked team behind balanced scoring and pressure defense. The Lions advanced to the Northern California D-I tournament that starts this week, and they could be the No. 1 or 2 seed. This route paid off in 2015 when McClatchy lost to St. Mary’s in the section final, regrouped and won the CIF State D-I title. St. Mary’s has long been an Open Division regular.
You have to play a perfect game to beat them. If there’s any letdown, it’s ‘Boom!’ A three-point game becomes a nine-point game just like that.
Jeff Ota, McClatchy girls basketball coach, on St. Mary’s
“I like our chances – a lot,” Ota said.