By Joe Davidson
Dakarai Allen would like to say he can smell another championship, but in truth he can't.
The Sheldon High School junior star took an elbow to his nose Wednesday afternoon in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal against Bethel, had his nostrils clogged with gauze to stop the bleeding - and then he and his mates methodically inflicted all manner of hurt on the No. 5-seeded Jaguars of Vallejo in using a closing 21-4 run for an 81-55 triumph at Power Balance Pavilion.
For the top-seeded Huskies of the Elk Grove Unified School District, Allen had a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds, D'Erryl Williams had 18 and eight and Armani Hampton contributed 15 and four. Ryan Manning, yet another impressive junior on a team loaded with them, had eight points and 11 rebounds.
Allen said he shook off his bopped nose that bled pretty good for a moment. He said the best way to attack a team that offered so many elbows and chucks was to attack right back, and for Sheldon that generally includes inside plays and often above-the-rim finishes.
"I knew we could get to the rim and not be scared," Allen said.
Next is a chance of history. The Huskies bound into the D-I finals seeking a three-peat. If successful, Sheldon would match Jesuit and Merced as the only large-school teams to take three consecutive titles in this section.
Merced did it form 1986-88 behind all-time regional great guard Gerald Madkins and Jesuit did so from 1992-94 under program greats Isaac Fontaine, Chris Griffin and Josh King and coach Hank Meyer, now the Pleasant Grove principal. All told, another section title would be the program's fourth since 2007.
But Sheldon coach Joey Rollings understands his team has to clean up its game a bit. He doesn't doubt the defense, a staple all season, or the general effort. But the turnovers make irk him to no end. Sheldon had 13 turnovers in the first half and 22 total. The coach also expects to shoot a bit better Saturday now that the NBA arena doesn't feel so cavernous.
"We know if we play good defense and get to the rim, we'll be OK," Rollings said. "I don't know if we've ever hit more than three threes in here."
As for being in tight games and suddenly blowing it open with a run?
"We have that potential," Rollings said. "We don't like to lose. You can see it on our faces. The mistakes make the guys mad and they get after it."
Rodney Cook scored 16 for Bethel, a newer school in Solano County that hs quicky become a factor in the playoffs. The Jaguars eliminated Jesuit and Grant in the football playoffs last fall and played fearlessly against Sheldon on Wednesday.
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