Too skilled, too deep, too good.
That’s the template of trouble the St. Mary’s Rams present opponents on the high school girls basketball circuit as they hound opponents on defense, move the ball with crisp passes and score both on the break and from outside in buckling all comers, including the most formidable ones.
Trailing early then charging back to maintain control, as they have seemingly done forever at the regional level, the Rams of Stockton overwhelmed Folsom 71-48 on Saturday night in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship at Spanos Center, extending a series of remarkable streaks.
A 25-4 run spanning the second and third quarters blew it open, and the Cal-Hi Sports state-ranked No. 2 Rams won their 11th consecutive section banner (the last six in D-I). St. Mary’s (26-2) won its 44th consecutive section playoff game in extending its season winning streak to 17, all while halting Folsom’s seasonal run at 12 games. Want more? St. Mary’s has gone 88-6 in the section playoffs since 1995 and 77-2 since 1999 while competing in 22 finals over 24 seasons.
St. Mary’s is so accustomed to this sort of thing that it long ago stopped celebrating after section title romps. What the Rams and coach Tom Gonsalves really seek are state championships.
Folsom (27-4) is in the midst of its greatest season, led by its greatest player. But McKenzie Forbes, the five-star McDonald’s All-American guard headed to Cal, was out of sorts in the first half, unable to score, though freshman point guard Charity Gallegos had the Bulldogs in it and then some with 11 points in the first quarter. She finished with 15.
Forbes heated up in the second half and ended with 14, but she tapped her chest as if to signify “my bad” on some plays that didn’t go her way. Forbes was presented with the section sportsmanship award for the game (Ariel Johnson got it for St. Mary’s).
UCLA-bound center Shayley Harris had nine points and 11 rebounds for Folsom, which shot 34 percent and missed 14 3-pointers. The Rams made 50 percent of their shots, including 6 of 12 on 3-pointers.
And the Rams defense?
“Their man-to-man defense was amazing, and we couldn’t buy a bucket,” Folsom coach Lynn Wolking said. “We had too much of a scoring drought. And Ariel Johnson was crazy good tonight.”
A lot of Rams were crazy good. Johnson, a senior guard, had 26 points, and McDonald’s All-American pick Aquira DeCosta had 22 points and 14 rebounds. The senior forward is headed to Baylor.
Both teams will play in the Open Division of the CIF Northern California Regional tournament, which tips off Friday.
St. Mary’s, no stranger to this bracket, are the No. 2 seed and will host No. 7 Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa. Folsom, seeded fourth, hosts No. 5 Salesian of Richmond in its first Open Division contest – proof of how far the program has come under veteran coaches Wolking and Sterling Forbes, father of McKenzie.
“We’ve had a great year and want to continue it,” Wolking said. “We do need to recover from this. We got (McKenzie) for the first time two years ago and were happy to be here, giddy. We were confident tonight and felt like we belonged, but it wasn’t our night.”