Girls BB: NorCal Record for St. Mary’s

After winning its 11th straight CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title on Saturday at University of the Pacific, the St. Mary’s of Stockton girls basketball team established a new Northern California record, according to the Cal-Hi Sports state record book.

The Rams, who defeated Folsom 71-48 for the SJS Division I championship, also moved into a tie for second-place on the all-time state list in the category of most consecutive section titles. They broke the previous NorCal best of 10 straight section titles held by Pinewood of Los Altos Hills (1998-2007) and tied in 2009 by Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco. Both of those schools, as is current state and national No. 1 Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, are from the CIF Central Section.

Ariel Johnson had one of her best games for St. Mary’s with 26 points in a section championship game. Photo: Mark Tennis.

The state record for consecutive section titles in girls hoops was set at 16 in 2008 when Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo didn’t win a title in the CIF Central Section. The Royals began their streak in 1993 in the CIF Southern Section. St. Mary’s is now tied for second on that list with Brea Olinda of Brea, which won 11 section titles in a row in the Southern Section between 1989 and 1999.

Beating Folsom convincingly, of course, was the bigger goal on Saturday night. St. Mary’s, which has been No. 2 in the state since losing to Mitty in the title game at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona, was facing a Bulldogs’ club that was 26-3 coming into the night and was up to No. 7 overall in the state.

Folsom didn’t play into its role of underdog in the early going. Freshman guard Charity Gallegos frustrated the St. Mary’s press defense with breakaway layups and a couple of three-pointers en route to 11 points in the first quarter. The Bulldogs found themselves ahead 23-13 with four minutes left before halftime, but then momentum changed rather quickly.

Florida-bound senior guard Ariel Johnson sparked a 17-1 run to end the second quarter with three driving layups and a three-pointer. She continued to have a hot hand in the third quarter. Folsom’s 23-13 lead had become a 36-24 lead for the Rams and it was all but over.

“I told them at halftime that one advantage was that they couldn’t match up with her speed,” said St. Mary’s head coach Tom Gonsalves when asked about the game that Johnson had. “She did an outstanding job executing the game plan. She had a great game.”

Johnson finished with 26 points and out-shined the two McDonald’s All-Americans who were in the game. Teammate Aquira DeCosta started slow but racked up 14 rebounds and five blocks to go with 22 points. Folsom’s McKenzie Forbes, who is a close friend of DeCosta’s, didn’t score until the third quarter but ended with 14 points. Gallegos led the Bulldogs with 15.

Both teams now move on to the CIF NorCal Open Division. Pairings will be released by the CIF on Sunday afternoon. The Rams, who also have now won 19 section titles in all, know they will be seeded second behind Mitty but know the entire bracket can be dangerous.

“We’ve been working very hard and I think we are ready,” said Johnson, who suffered a gash on her nose early in the fourth quarter from what she thought was running into the teeth of DeCosta. “(If we play Mitty again) we just have to do a better job and shut down Haley (Jones).”

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