At long last, a home game. And what a homecoming.
Playing in front of a festive, full crowd that included the band, a halftime performance by the Sheldon High School universal rhythm dance crew and a rooting section that featured shirtless seniors with body paint, the Bee's top ranked boys basketball team entertained in every facet after a whirlwind holiday basketball tour.
Sheldon, fresh off national tournaments in Las Vegas, San Diego and New Orleans, didn't look like a club with jet lag. The Huskies raced past and jumped over rival and No. 17 Jesuit 69-42 in a Delta River League meeting of rivals on Friday night.
Last season, Sheldon beat Jesuit to take the DRL, Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship for a title three-peat and Northern California D-I championship.
The core of the Sheldon team returned, headed by San Diego State-bound senior leaders Dakarai Allen and D'Erryl Williams and sharp-shooting forward Ryan Manning, another senior scholar who expects to land a scholarship. The Huskies looked the part of a club that is state-ranked No. 3 by Cal-Hi Sports and NorCal ranked No. 3 by
MaxPreps in taking apart a rebuilding Marauders team that has talent and competes but doesn't have near the experience, muscle, burst or skill as the Huskies.
"They're really good," Jesuit coach Greg Harcos said before the game.
Sheldon raced to a 62-24 lead before the reserves played the entire fourth quarter. The Huskies (11-4, 2-0) ran the floor, shared the ball on alley-oop dunks or bounce passes down the lane or to open shooters.
They hustled on defense, got on the floor for loose balls and used depth to keep a full step ahead of the Marauders (9-9, 1-1). Sheldon made 8 of 15 three-pointers in the first half.
Darin Johnson, a 6-5 forward headed to Washington, led Sheldon with 17 points. Manning had 14 points in hitting threes or throwing down dunks, and six rebounds. Allen had 13 with eight deflections, five steals and three blocked shots. Williams had seven points and six rebounds, and teammate Antonio Lewis had 10 points and five rebounds.
"We shot the ball well, shared the ball, and we're not at our peak," Sheldon coach Joey Rollings said.
Williams, the steady point guard, said a home atmosphere adds to the total package. Sheldon players hope for a similar crowd tonight when state No. 9 Bullard of Fresno (13-1) visits for a 6 p.m. nonleague affair.
"Always love the band here - the best band in the land," Williams said. "We have great atmosphere here, great support."
As for the national tournaments, Rollings and Williams agreed that the Huskies got what they wanted: experience against top-tier teams, a chance to bond away from home, improvement and no injuries.
"It was good for us," Williams said. "We're coming together as a team."
For all of Sheldon's star power, it's the efforts of the unsung performers that impress Rollings and his staff. Lewis is a 6-foot-1 senior forward who scraps for loose balls, loves to rebound and is capable of hitting shots. He hit two threes and goes by "Buck
Williams" - and not because of a 1980s high-rise 'do that the NBA rebounding guru sported during the 1980s and '90s.
Sheldon guards James Fox, Jordan Bradley and Devin Greene combined for eight points and a lot of ball handling.
"I'm old school - get after it, get the rebounds, play hard defense, hit open shots," Lewis said, all grins. "It's my role."
- Joe Davidson
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