By Joe Davidson
The Sheldon Huskies offer moments of superb play - sharing the ball, defending with purpose, polishing foes off.
And there are times The Bee's top-ranked group has lapses, handling the ball as if it was dripping of lava as it sails out of bounds. They are, after all, teenagers.
Top-seeded in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I field and gunning for a large-school section three-peat, the Huskies withstood an early fourth-quarter charge against No. 9 Burbank for a 65-55 second-round playoff victory in South Sacramento on Friday night.
The usual suspects contributed across the board for Sheldon (24-5) with steady point guard D'Erryl Williams scoring 17 points with 12 rebounds, and forward Dakarai Allen going for 19 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. Forward Ryan Manning shot and drove his way to 12 points, wing Armani Hampton had six and seniors Nate Iese and Tyler Morris combined for six points.
Yes, it's a triumph, and they're all cherished at this time of year, but Huskies coach Joey Rollings was quick to remind his troops that a more polished effort is in order to continue the championship journey. Next is Bethel of Vallejo, which eliminated Oak Ridge. Bethel (23-6) is talented and no doubt eager to bruise and derail Sheldon in a semifinal Wednesday night at Power Balance Pavilion.
"Definitely have to get better," Rollings said. "We have to play better on the big stage. There's a little less pressure for teams now because the top four teams (in each division) go to the NorCals, but we still want to win the section."
Burbank of the Metro Conference tried to zone Sheldon but the Huskies had the athletes to attack it, or shoot over it. And no team in the section has been able to run in a full sprint with these fleet-footed Huskies.
Still, the Titans (21-8) got to within 48-44 with 7:14 to play before Sheldon pulled away with a 13-2 run. Allen had a three-point play and an inside bucket, Manning a driving layup, Williams had back-to-back drives and Hampton a score in a show of balance. Burbank was undone also by making just 13 of 31 free throws, prompting coach Lindsey Ferrell to mutter, "wow."
Williams is the catalyst, setting up teammates, attacking the basket, crashing the boards - and never getting rattled.
"Control the tempo," he said of his role. "I love the role, the ball in my hands, anything to help us win.
Sheldon is so balanced that two nights after Kyi Thomas went for 26 in an opening-round win over Pitman, he went for a modest five.
"We can have four guys in double figures," Rollings said. "D'Erryl is a beast and he's hard to guard. Allen is smooth when he attacks the basket."
The D-I playoffs have a decided Delta River League flavor now with league champion Sheldon to be joined at Power Balance next week by league rivals Jesuit and Pleasant Grove.
"We knew it was a great league," Williams said.
William Roots, Malik Pope and Jay Stone all had 11 points for Burbank.
Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty host the SureWest Sports Radio Show each Saturday from 9-10 a.m. on ESPN1320. Show is linked later to ESPN1320.net