By Joe Davidson
MORAGA - Their versatile star was mired in a lingering shooting funk, the floor leader hobbling so badly you wondered if he shouldn't come out to save the foot.
But to understand the Sheldon Huskies this season is to appreciate the grit and drive of its senior standouts who crave a lasting legacy.
Withstanding a furious rally by the state's top-ranked team and overcoming their own fatigue from pouring every ounce into this CIF Northern California Regional Open Division semifinal, Sheldon inched past Salesian of Richmond 63-59 in overtime Tuesday night at Saint Mary's College.
Dakarai Allen struggled a bit shooting, managing 11 hard-earned points (he averages 18), but he had plenty of other contributions. The 6-foot-6 wing found his hobbled running mate, D'Erryl Williams, for a bounce pass in the lane for a 62-59 lead, then he blocked McDonald's All-America Jabari Bird's lean-in three-point attempt from the corner with three seconds to go to emphatically end it. Allen recovered the ball, was fouled and made a free throw to account for the final score, ending the Pride's 20-game winning streak and 75-0 run against NorCal foes in the past several seasons.
NorCal Division I champions a year ago, Sheldon now targets the first NorCal Open crown. The Open is a concept the CIF initiated this season to pit elite teams.
Sheldon (27-5) plays Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, the two-time defending CIF Division II champion, Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena. Mitty beat Modesto Christian in the other semifinal 58-53.
Darin Johnson hit a three-pointer for a 58-57 Sheldon lead, and Antonio Lewis had a floater seconds later with 1:40 left for a 60-59 lead in another example of a balanced attack. A strong 6-4 guard headed to Washington, Johnson made five threes and had 24 points, Allen had 11, Williams eight and Lewis seven, including a flying 35-foot bank-in three to end the first half to put Sheldon up 35-24.
"I couldn't come out because I didn't want it to be my last game," said Williams, whose right foot was encased in an ice bag after the game. "If I couldn't walk, I was still going to play. And we're not done. We've played through adversity like this to get where we are and to win a state title."
Said Allen, "We practice (today). We know that. We're not done. Feels great."
The game was every bit as thrilling as expected, pitting the two top-ranked teams in Northern California by MaxPreps.
Sheldon avenged last month's 69-60 nonconference road loss to Salesian (30-4), and has won nine in a row since. In that game, the Pride was fresher down the stretch, and the Huskies missed all 14 of their three-point shots.
Sheldon was hot early in the rematch, making six first-half three-pointers and nine overall. Then Salesian settled down, played superb defense and held the Huskies scoreless over a 4:50 stretch into the fourth quarter.
Bird (23 points) keyed the rally, but he was stymied in the fourth by the long-armed Allen.
The game was moved from 1,920-seat Albany High to the 3,500-seat McKeon Pavilion because of the anticipated full crowd. It was full here, including a throng of Sheldon student rooters nicknamed "The Pound" and the school's award-winning band.
Sheldon coach Joey Rollings was spent afterward. He embraced Pride coach Bill Mellis as the two have formed a fast friendship.
"Just great for the kids," Rollings said afterward.