By Joe Davidson
After his buzzer-beating putback stunned Granite Bay 67-66 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal overtime thriller tonight, Darius Nelson raced to midcourt on Power Balance Pavilion and yanked off his jersey. He gloated a bit, then calmed himself and embraced all comers - and he heard about it all moments later.
His coaches offered the stern eye and Sheldon principal Paula Duncan, as big on sportsmanship as she is on participation, implored the Huskies' talented and emotional senior to, "please keep your shirt on" in an otherwise joyous locker room.
There was relief, too, as everyone from a proud Duncan to an exhausted coach Joey Rollings to a spent bunch of players escaped what seemed like certain defeat. Granite Bay, co-winners of the Sierra Foothill League, charged to an early 15-point lead and and led by nine late in regulation, but Sheldon never wilted in clawing back in it and earning a chance to defend its title against rival Jesuit, which beat Franklin in the other semifinal.
Nelson scored six of his 37 in overtime, a session in which he also grabbed four rebounds and drew a charge. He gutted out a cut hand, a severely sprained ankle, double and triple teams in the post and fatigue. Ramon Eaton scored 13 with 10 rebounds and Sheldon outrebounded the Grizzlies 42-33 to return to extend its season.
Sheldon beat Franklin to win the title last season and it seeks its third title since 2007.
"What a game," Nelson said, slumped in his dressing-room seat, a pack of ice on his right ankle. "It wasn't just me. It was all of us, a great team effort."
Robert Duncan and Jonathon Davis scored 21 and 17, respectively, for Granite Bay, but both senior leaders were fouled out by early in overtime. Their loss and missed free throws by an ever resilient Grizzlies team allowed Sheldon to climb back.
Granite Bay led 55-46 with 1:55 left in regulation on a Davis bucket and Eaton inched his team closer with a free throw with 19.4 seconds to play to cut it to 57-56. An Eaton tip with 4.2 seconds left forced overtime. Two Nathan Brillington free throws gave Granite Bay a 66-63 lead with 54.8 left in overtime before Nelson scored the final two buckets.
Said Rollings, "I love these guys. What a comeback. I loved our effort."