By Joe Davidson
Short handed without one of its leading aces and also minus its fiery coach, but never short in desire and focus, the Sheldon Huskies on Saturday night scored their most significant victory this early season.
With 6-foot-6 do-all talent Dakarai Allen sidelined with a gash over his right eye from a game earlier in the week against Ponderosa and suffering from the flu, and with coach Joey Rollings out from Friday night's ejection, per CIF rules, the Bee's top-ranked squad went toe-to-toe with state power Deer Valley of Antioch - and then some.
Darin Johnson scored 19 of his lifetime best 42 points in the third quarter in a clinic of scoring. The 6-4 guard headed to Washington scored on a variety of jumpers, bombs and inside plays, and a host of other Sheldon players - young and older - contributed in a big way to key a heart-check 97-92 victory over the Marcus Lee and Kendall Smith-led Wolverines in a nonleague game.
This could also be a preview of a Northern California playoff showdown with the new Open division format of elite programs in play for the first time come March.
Lee, the Kentucky-bound 6-10 post, was sensational for Deer Valley, as was senior guard Smith. Smith had 34 points - driving, jump shots, bombs.
Lee had 30 on 14 of 18 shooting in a powerful display of inside dominance that included 11 dunks. He soared with one-handed dunks off steals, went high for thunder dunks off baseline alley-oops and off putbacks. He had 15 rebounds, seven blocked shots and four steals.
Mike Bradley, a guard for the 33-1 Highlands team of 1983 that won a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship, coached Sheldon against Deer Valley and left the gym as if he'd coached a triple header. He and Rollings chatted later, pleased with a team-wide effort, right on down to the contributions of freshman guard Devin Greene, and 6-6 shooter Ian Miller, who had 11 points on three three-pointers. Rollings was not on campus during the game.
Sheldon floor leader D'Erryl Williams barely played in the first half with three fouls, and the Huskies' other senior ace in Ryan Manning fouled out early in the fourth quarter with four points in a physical, frenetic game. But the Huskies (14-4) showed again that they are a deep, well-conditioned club.
Williams, a powerfully build guard, muscled inside for nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a bucket for a 92-87 lead with 1:15 to play. The San Diego State-bound star delivered a nifty bounce pass to Antonio Lewis down the lane for a 94-90 lead with 47 seconds to play. Williams also had four of his seven rebounds in the fourth.
Lewis, the team's grunt performer, scored 19 points with 11 rebounds. His buzzer-beating three pointer gave Sheldon a 73-63 lead after three, setting the Huskies crowd into a frenzy.
"It's always fun out there," Lewis said. "I'm smiling now because it was such a good game. I'll sleep in tomorrow. I'm pretty beat up."
Johnson of Sheldon had nine rebounds. Jalen Hicks had five assists for Sheldon.
Johnson said he was delighted to compete against his God brother Smith of Deer Valley (14-4). Each badly wanted this one.
"It's always fun to go against great competition, especially from the Bay Area," Johnson said. "We had a lot of players step up without Dakarai. We're all playing well together."
Sheldon next plays at Bee No. 3 Pleasant Grove on Friday in a battle for first place in the Delta River League. Pleasant Grove players and coaches packed in to watch this game.
Sheldon is state-ranked No. 3 by Cal-Hi Sports and NorCal ranked No. 3 by MaxPreps. Deer Valley is NorCal-ranked No. 5, owning a 97-96 victory over Sacramento earlier this season.
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