ALBANY -- The Salesian High girls basketball team wants to accomplish much more this season, but checked one goal off its list after a 62-51 victory over St. Mary's on Saturday at Albany High.
Behind Mariya Moore's 28 points and 17 rebounds, the Pride completed a regular season sweep over its biggest rival to clinch the Tri-County Athletic League-Rock Division championship -- its first outright league title in program history.
"It's a really big deal," said Moore, one of three recently-named McDonald's All-Americans in the game, along with St. Mary's Mikayla Cowling and Gabby Green. "We came in working for this, so it feels so great... But there are so many more (titles) we want, so we just have to keep working."
Neither team led by more than three points in the first half which featured 12 lead changes and five ties. But when St. Mary's lost three starters after halftime -- including Green -- Salesian (20-5, 10-0 TCAL) began to take control.
Green, a Cal-bound guard, suffered a shoulder injury, according to St. Mary's coach Nate Fripp. She didn't come out of the locker room for the second half.
St. Mary's (20-6, 8-2 TCAL) also lost starting forward Cailyn Callender to an ankle injury and point guard Zavanna Negron, who fouled out with 2:13 to play in the third quarter.
Despite the adversity, St. Mary's didn't fade until the very end. A quick 7-0 run got the Panthers within 52-47 with 3:52 left before Salesian pulled away for good.
"I thought for a little patch we weren't so aggressive but for most of the game we played very aggressive," Salesian coach Steve Pezzola said. "We call it 'Salesian basketball' -- be aggressive and go after it."
Vastly different performances at the free throw line also affected the outcome. Salesian made 27 of 32 foul shots with Moore going 11 of 12, while St. Mary's was 11 of 25 overall.
"I thought we played hard and battled," Fripp said. "But the better team won today."
Cowling led St. Mary's with 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists, and Ma'Ane Mosley added 15 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Green finished with four points and six rebounds in the first half, when she also took an elbow to the face.
Salesian and St. Mary's could see each other three more times this season in playoff matchups, and Moore hopes it's with Green back on the court.
"I want to do it when they have a full team and are at full power," Moore said. "The win still feels great, but would feel even better if we beat them at their best."