By Joe Davidson
Tuesday was Senior Night at Sheldon High School.
A painted poster from students on the baseline wall that pretty much sized this group up as a whole: Studs.
Studs and scholars, actually.
Sheldon, top ranked by The Bee all season and NorCal ranked No. 2 and state-ranked No. 5 by Cal-Hi Sports, is a collection of versatile basketball players who also lead by example academically, including honors classes in producing the sort of grades that make for scholarship locks.
With its senior lineup scoring, rebounding and sharing the ball, the Huskies held off No. 2 Pleasant Grove in another Delta River League thriller, this time 84-77 to lock up the championship outright.
Dakarai Allen, headed to San Diego State, had 27 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots in another dazzling showcase.
Washington-bound guard/forward Darin Johnson scored 21 of his 23 in the second half and had five rebounds. Ryan Manning went for 13 with inside plays and three pointers, San Diego State-bound floor leader D'Erryl Williams had eight points, eight rebounds and six assists and unsung grunts Antonio Lewis and Jalen Hicks combined for 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Sheldon made nine three pointers and was 23 of 31 from the line. The Huskies (21-5, 10-0) scored their final 11 points from the line on 14 attempts.
Pleasant Grove (21-5, 8-2) again showed it could go toe-to-toe with the three-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions who seek a record fourth successive large-school banner. In the first meeting Jan. 25, the visiting Huskies prevailed 85-79. In the rematch, Cole Nordquist scored 31 with 12 rebounds, and fellow three-year senior starters Malik Thames and Matt Hayes went for 21 and 12,
Section seedings and brackets will be released Wednesday. Sheldon expects to the No. 1 seed with Pleasant Grove the likely No. 3 seed, meaning on the opposite bracket with a chance for a third bout in the section finals at Sleep Train Arena next month.
"Yes, definitely I think we'll see them again," Allen said. "There's a reason we're ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the area. But we know we've got to take care of business first and win the early rounds. One loss and we go home forever. If we don't make free throws late, it's a totally different game."
Sheldon unleashed its full school arsenal. It started with a packed gym by the half of the earlier junior varsity game. The Sheldon vocal ensemble performed a beautiful rendition of the national anthem after seniors walked to midcourt with family members, with public address announcer Herbie Berry doing the honors. Sheldon rooting section was loud and proud, right on down to the shirtless guys with bellies only they could appreciate. One wore a replica WWF championship belt.
"It's a lot of fun playing PG," Williams said. "The fans got here early and was great."
Lewis scored a putback at the halftime buzzer for a 37-35 Sheldon lead and Thames dropped in a buzzer-beating three to pull Pleasant Grove to within 59-57 after three. In the fourth, there were 11 ties or lead changes, a lot on free throws. Manning's three gave Sheldon a 67-66 lead and a Johnson tip with 3:47 left put the Huskies up 71-69, a lead they would not lose.
Pleasant Grove collectively was disappointed but hardly discouraged. A new season looms.
"I like our chances," Eagles coach John DePonte said. "We can't make mistakes, though. We don't have the horses that they do and affort mistakes."
On Nordquist, DePonte said, "We can never fault his effort. He gives us his heart and soul. We'll live and die by his aggressiveness."
* Nelson honored - At the half, Sheldon retired jersey No. 21 of program great DeMarcus Nelson, the state's all-time career scorer with 3,462 points. He played his first three seasons at Vallejo and his senior season of 2002-03 at Sheldon when he averaged 30.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Nelson, a guard, played four seasons at Duke, where he was a two-time team MVP and captain, played a season with the Warriors and is now competing overseas.
Bee file photo by Jose Luis Villegas: Huskies D'Erryl Williams and teammate Darin Johnson enjoyed a fifteen point lead in the second half in Friday nights basketball game between top ranked Sheldon and no. 2 Pleasant Grove at Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove on January 25, 2013.
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