STOCKTON - It'll be a Metropolitan Conference party of sorts on Saturday at Sleep Train Arena.
Following the footsteps of rivals Kennedy in Division I and Sacramento in D-II, the Florin Panthers earned a title shot at the NBA arena with a gritty 44-41 triumph of McNair of Stockton in a Sac-Joaquin Section D-II semifinals Thursday night at the University of the Pacific.
The Panthers will take on Metro champion and Bee-ranked No. 1 Sacramento for the D-II title, a few hours before Kennedy takes on St. Mary's of Stoctkton in the large-school showcase.
Sacramento won the Metro by sweeping Florin and Kennedy. Per the good will among the Metro teams, players were pulling for each other in semifinal games.
Florin prevailed despite losing leading scorer Daijah Joe-Smtih with 5:45 left in the game. But as Florin coach Larry Price has maintained all season, his star doesn't make up the entire roster.
Florin won it with a free throw by Deja Conger with 13.2 seconds to play for a 42-41 lead and then sealed it with two free throws by Dalayna Sampton to return to a title game for the first time since the 1996 and '97 seasons in D-I under then coach Shannon Gasper.
Jikara Sellers and Conger led Florin with 12 points each and Sampton had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Brittany Butler had 18 points for McNair and Mandy Coleman had 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Both teams advance to the NorCal regional tournament that starts next week.
- Joe Davidson
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