Kennedy was the last hope of the night Saturday for public school girls basketball in the Sac-Joaquin Section championships at Sleep Train Arena.
And for nearly three quarters the defending Division I champions from Greenhaven matched perennial section power St. Mary's of Stockton basket for basket.
But there is a reason why the Rams are ranked No. 17 nationally by USA Today and No. 4 in California by Cal-Hi Sports.
They wear teams down with their combination of talent, depth and versatility, which the top-seeded Rams eventually did in beating the No. 3 Cougars 63-47 to capture their first D-I banner and their section-leading 14th overall.
Brijanee Moore had 27 points and seven steals; dazzling Unique Coleman added 15 points and six rebounds; and Natalie Delgado had 11 points, including two three-point bank shots for St. Mary's (29-2).
Katie Lee had 12 points and three assists and Lynette Johnson, who played all 32 minutes despite tweaking an already gimpy right ankle in the first half, had nine points and 17 rebounds for Kennedy (24-6).
"I'm proud of our effort, I'm proud of my players," said Kennedy coach Dave Parsh. "We executed the game plan pretty well, but I think we ran out of gas at the end. They are deep and in great shape."
Kennedy was able to consistently break down St. Mary's vaunted press and led or tied eight times. But after Dalayna Tyler-Scott's basket put the Cougars ahead 36-35 with four minutes to play in the third quarter, the Rams outscored Kennedy 28-11 the rest of the way. St. Mary's had 17 steals and forced 27 turnovers.
With St. Mary's being elevated to D-I and Sacramento High, a public charter school without enrollment boundaries winning in D-II, private/charter schools swept all divisions for the the second time in three seasons. Previous to St. Francis winning in 2011, only public schools had won D-I girls titles.
"St. Mary's is nationally renowned, so to get to battle a Goliath is a great opportunity for us," Parsh said. "But I'd like to see a level playing field. You don't see that many good athletes at a public school."
With St. Mary's likely headed to the new CIF Northern California Regional Open Division, Parsh said it may be easier for a public school program like his to compete for a NorCal D-I banner.