In the end, experience paid dividends.
Top-seeded Oak Ridge rallied to down No. 4 Franklin 42-38 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal slugfest tonight at Pacific.
The Trojans rolled to a D-II title a year ago and rolled through two rounds in D-I this season before encountering a feisty and athletic Wildcats team that led early in the fourth before stalling. Sara James played like a playoff veteran as the fourth-year starter finished with 24 points, 16 rebounds and six steals. Caitlin Welsch had eight for Oak Ridge.
Gena Johnson had 18 for Franklin as she got a head start on her Pacific career. The guard will play for the Tigers on scholarship next season.
In the other D-I semifinal, No. 3 Kennedy bombed No. 10 McClatchy 58-31 in a showdown expected to be much closer, given the rivalry.
Kennedy stormed to a 15-2 lead with three-pointers and defense.
Team leader Leslie Leong scored 13 points, Cydni Matsuoka had 11, Lynette Johnson 11, Kelsie Muramoto nine and Shanice Butler seven for the Cougars, in the finals for the seventh time since 2001 and seeking a fifth title. Leong, Matsuoka and Muramoto combined to hit 9 of 14 threes, and they flustered McClatchy dynamo guard Ariel Thomas with traps and double teams and anticipated some of her passes.
Oak Ridge and Kennedy play for the title Saturday night at Arco Arena.
In Division II, top-seeded St. Francis clobbered No. 5 Woodcreek 73-46, using a 19-0 first-half run. Briana Charles had 29 points and Jolise Limcaco had 18 for the Troubadours, in the finals for the eighth time.
In the other D-II semifinal, Ashley Moore scored the winner on a one-handed runner with 5.6 seconds to play to lift No. 3 Vallejo past No. 2 Bella Vista 55-54. Moore had 26 points and 13 rebounds.
St. Francis and Vallejo play for the title Saturday at Arco Arena.