By Joe Davidson
STOCKTON - St. Mary's High School mows all comers, methodically stretching close games into bruising routes with defense, size, skill, offensive balance and a tradition impossible to match.
The Rams of Stockton beat Florin 74-33 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal Tuesday night at the University of the Pacific and now inch closer to the program's 13th section championship, and beyond that, a 10th state title.
Seeded No. 1 in the field, the nationally ranked Rams were paced by steady stars Charise Holloway (18 points), Courtney Range (15) and Unique Coleman (13).
Florin was led by Daijah Joe-Smith (10 points, 15 rebounds) and Deja Conger 10 points. The Panthers, enjoying their best season since the section finalist teams of 1996 and '97, had 38 turnovers and shot 34 percent against the Rams' smothering defense that includes quickness, size and depth.
All told, St. Mary's has blasted area teams this season in Bradshaw Christian (110-46), Pleasant Grove (84-44), St. Francis (94-59), Vacaville (111-54) and Inderkum (82-40).
It was 44-26 at one point against Florin before St. Mary's hit the jets, outscoring the Panthers 21-4 in the fourth.
St. Mary's will play Tri-City League member McNair of Stockton on Saturday in the section finals at Power Balance Pavilion. St. Mary's blasted McNair, a talented, tall team, 82-45 and 87-45.
Florin will still advance to next week's NorCal Regional tournament, as a low seed on the road. The Panthers were winless at 0-24 just three seasons ago but have made a rapid rise under coach Larry Price, who will return the bulk of his roster next season.
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