MORAGA, Calif. —
When Jermaine Edmonds Jr.
drilled a three-pointer with less than four minutes to go, the fantastic second-half comeback of Salesian (Richmond)
High School's boys basketball team looked complete.
Cal-bound Jabari Bird
was having a field day with an assortment of reverse and follow-dunks, culminated with a three-point basket to give the Pride their very first lead of the game 47-45 against a determined and hot-shooting Sheldon (Sacramento)
team that looked in complete command with a 13-point third-quarter lead.
Down suddenly 53-47 after Edmonds' triple, Sheldon looked deflated, bewildered and downright beaten.
But somehow the defending Division I Northern California champions, which had lost two previous games to Salesian in a little over a year, dug deep and pulled out a 63-59 overtime thriller in a Northern California Open Division semifinal game at St. Mary's College's McKeon Pavilion that lived up to its large billing.
Washington-bound Darin Johnson
, a 6-foot-5 senior with seemingly endless shooting range, had 24 points, including five three-pointers to send fourth-seed Sheldon (27-5) into Saturday's NorCal final against Mitty, a 58-54 winner over Modesto Christian. See rest of NorCal roundup
In his final prep game, McDonald's All-American Bird brought Salesian back with 25 points, but the defense of Sheldon's 6-foot-6 senior Dakarai Allen
on him proved decisive down the stretch.
Following Bird's three-pointer to put Salesian up for the first time, Allen, who scored 11 points, held him scoreless the rest of the way — the final 9:15.
He also blocked Bird's final attempt with six seconds left in overtime with Sheldon up 62-59. Bird got Allen in the air and drew plenty of contact. No call, Allen retrieved the ball, was fouled and hit one of two foul shots to clinch it with 2.4 seconds left.
The loss ended Salesian's 20-game win streak overall and 75 straight against Northern California opponents.
Salesian opened the season at No. 10 and Sheldon No. 16 in the MaxPreps
Xcellent 25 national rankings, but each fell out after early defeats.
Salesian entered Tuesday No. 29 and Sheldon No. 37 in the MaxPreps Freeman computer rankings
"We expected a game like this and we got it," said Allen, a 6-6 senior headed to San Diego State. "They're a great team, but so are we."
Said Salesian coach Bill Mellis, who stood right in front of the last sequence: "You can't expect a call in that situation. Was there contact? Yes. Should he have called it? I don't know. I probably should have called some timeouts late that I didn't. ... Bottom line, Sheldon made more plays down the stretch than us and deserved to win. But I'm proud of our guys for how they came back."
Indeed with Johnson lighting it up and the Huskies connecting from the perimeter — they were 9-for-18 from beyond the stripe compared to 0-for-14 in a 69-60 loss to Salesian in February — Sheldon opened up leads of 22-11 and 32-20 in the first half.
Bird seemed to give Salesian (30-4) some momentum with a fastbreak layup and jumper, but Antonio Lewis
, a 6-1 forward often lost in Sheldon's talented starting five, hit a miraculous leaning 35-footer from the left sideline at the halftime buzzer, to give the Huskies a 35-24 halftime edge.
The shot not only proved decisive, but Lewis would later hit a tough baseline jumper in overtime that put the Huskies up for good.
"We're not done yet," Allen said. "We practice tomorrow. It feels great."
It didn't feel too good when Salesian got it rolling following a 3-pointer from Johnson gave the Huskies a 41-28 lead with 3:36 left in the third.
A three-pointer by sophomore DeMar Dunn
started a 16-3 run for Salesian, that was finished off on consecutive follow dunks from the high-flying Bird. The second was a spectacular left-handed jam that tied it at 44-44 to start the fourth quarter and after a free throw by Allen, Bird gave his team its first lead on a baseline three-pointer.
The Salesian fans went wild and the Pride seemed on their way.
But Sheldon found enough will to come back. Down 53-47, Allen started a 8-2 run with a driving layup and Johnson finished it off with an emphatic dunk to tie it at 55 with 56 seconds left.
Both teams had chances in regulation, but not very good ones as the defenses held.
In overtime, Edmonds, who was fabulous in the second half and finished with 17, drilled a jumper to start, but Johnson answered with a three to give Sheldon a 58-57 lead. Two free throws by Mario Dunn
(14 points) put Salesian up 59-58, but Lewis answered right back with a tough baseline floater that swished home.
He finished with just seven points, but all were key.
Personifying Sheldon's toughness was 6-4 point guard D'Erryl Williams
who played most of the fourth quarter and overtime with a severely sprained right ankle. He finished with just eight points, but the San Diego State-bound senior scored his only points of the second half with a layup in the final minute of overtime off a feed from his best friend Allen.
It helped seal the win.
"I couldn't come out because I didn't want it to be my last game," Williams said. "If I couldn't walk, I was still going to play."
Said Sheldon coach Joey Rollings: "It's just great for the kids."
It was a tough one to swallow for the Pride, which graduated six seniors, including college-bound stars Bird, Mario Dunn (Montana) and Markel Leonard
For Salesian, the defending state Division IV champions and state runners-up in 2011, Mellis said: "It's the best group of seniors we've had at Salesian. They had a remarkable amount of success. It's hard for it to end but they have a lot to be proud of."
Sacramento Bee staff writer and MaxPreps correspondent Joe Davidson contributed to this report. E-mail Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org