The Bishop O'Dowd High girls basketball team received a stiff test from St. Mary's-Berkeley in its Open Division Northern California regional semifinal.
But the Dragons' combination of size, speed and depth eventually won out.
O'Dowd hit its stride in the third quarter of a 50-40 victory on Tuesday at Chabot College to earn a third consecutive trip to the NorCal finals.
O'Dowd (28-3) will play St. Mary's-Stockton in the first NorCal Open Division championship at Sacramento's Sleep Train Arena on Saturday at 6 p.m. after winning the last two NorCal Division III titles. It will be a rematch of a home game that O'Dowd won 80-59 last month.
For more than a half, St. Mary's-Berkeley gave O'Dowd all it could handle behind good defense and strong play from Gabby Green. The junior guard scored 12 of her 16 points in the first half, including all seven of the Panthers' second-quarter points.
The scored was tied at 22-22 at halftime before O'Dowd held St. Mary's (30-5) without a field goal in the third quarter and went on a 14-0 run to pull away.
"Their defense was exceptional, especially in the first half, but once we got into halftime and said 'Let's play Dragon ball' we finally let loose," said senior Oderah Chidom, who led the Dragons with 17 points and eight rebounds.
But St. Mary's didn't go away.
Down by as many as 15 early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers got their offensive rhythm back. A Taylor Berry 3-pointer with 2:54 remaining in the game got the Panthers within 42-37, but a Breanna Brown putback sparked an 8-0 O'Dowd run to make the lead comfortable again.
St. Mary's-Stockton 75, Carondelet 70: The Cougars fell behind early in the second quarter and could not catch up, as the host Rams won the Open Division regional semifinal at Delta College.
Just about every time the Cougars (26-4) would get something going, St. Mary's (31-2) would manage to sneak in and get an offensive rebound and more often than not score off of that rebound, stifling Carondelet's attempt at a comeback.
"They scored off of almost every offensive rebound," Cougars coach Margaret Gartner said. "They had 14 and scored on almost every put-back."
Carondelet shot often from behind the arc but only tallied three 3-pointers.
The Cougars had four players in double figures -- Natalie Romeo with 15 points, Amy Harioka with 14 and Lauren Nicolosi and Marcella Hughes with 10 points each.
-- Dave Campbell
Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills 51, Heritage 50: The visiting Trojans (28-4) needed one last defensive stop in the closing seconds, and they got it to win this Division I Northern California regional semifinal.
Heritage (26-6) trailed 51-48 when it forced a turnover with 10.1 seconds remaining. Inbounding on its side of the court, the Patriots could not get the ball to sharpshooter Lexi Campbell, who was heavily guarded. Erin Asher took the open lane for a layup in the final second, but the Patriots fell one point short.
Oak Ridge was 17 for 25 from the line, including 7 for 8 in the final quarter. Heritage was 11 for 23 from the free-throw line.
Sabrina Engelstad scored a team-high 22 points for Heritage.
-- Phil Jensen
Berkeley 54, Gunn-Palo Alto 46: The Yellowjackets reached the NorCal Division I championship game for a third year in a row, as senior co-captain Rachel Howard scored half of Berkeley's points in a win at Gunn.
The 12th-seeded Yellowjackets (20-11) also got 12 points from junior Desire Finnie, while Gunn senior Claire Klausner scored all of her team-high's 15 points in the second half.
The No. 8 Titans (21-7) were unable to score until there were 11.9 seconds left in the first quarter, when sophomore center Meghan Mahoney sank a pair of free throws. Gunn missed its first 10 shots and committed eight turnovers in the opening 8 minutes. Meanwhile, Howard scored 10 consecutive points for Berkeley in the first half and sank the team's four 3-pointers, two in each half.
Salesian 61, Menlo School 54: Mariya Moore was dominant and the top-seeded Pride (28-7) advanced to the Division IV regional championship game with a win over the No. 5 Knights (22-10) at Saint Mary's College.
Moore, a 5-foot-11 junior, had 28 points, 16 rebounds, 13 steals and five assists as the defending NorCal champions earned the right to attempt to defend their title. Salesian will play Saturday at 2 p.m. at American Canyon High against either Piedmont or Bradshaw Christian-Sacramento.
Menlo's Drew Edelman, a 6-4 USC-bound center, led the Knights with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
-- Jimmy Durkin