SACRAMENTO, Calif. –
It appeared much too much to ask Sheldon (Sacramento)
, coming off an emotional 71-70 buzzer-beating win over league rival Jesuit the night before, to muster enough energy to play with the state's fourth-ranked boys basketball team Salesian (Richmond)
on Saturday night.
Likewise, it seemed a large chore for Salesian to go on the road against the state's No. 8 team and show much competitive edge when it has hardly been challenged for two months.
Yet both teams went beyond the call of reason with a thoroughly aggressive, competitive end-to-end contest that will no doubt benefit both squads come March.
In the end, Salesian pulled out a 63-61 comeback win behind the fourth-quarter efforts of Jabari Bird
(19 points) and Mario Dunn
(10 points) and tremendous effort off the bench by Jermaine Edmonds
It offset big games from talented Sheldon big guns, 6-foot-4 high-flying senior Kyi Thomas
, who drilled six 3-pointers en route to a game-high 22 points, and 6-6 junior shooting guard Dakarai Allen
, who added 15.
The win gave Salesian (22-2), the defending Northern California Division IV champions, its 15th straight win following a pair of close defeats at the City of Palms Classic in December. Sheldon, a Division I power, dropped to 18-5.
"It's just what we needed," said Bird, ranked the No. 20 junior in the country by MaxPreps.com. "That's a definitely state-caliber team and they pushed us to the limit."
In fact, Sheldon was in control most of the game thanks largely to its perimeter game (nine 3-pointers) and excellent zone defense, which gave Salesian fits during an 11-point second quarter.
A 14-5 run to start the second quarter but the Huskies in commanded 33-23 and though the Pride made numerous spurts and once tied the game at 41 on a 3-pointer from Bird, they didn't take the lead until 1:10 remaining 59-57 on another 3-pointer, this one by Dunn.
Salesian would never give up the lead from there.
Known for his spectacular drives and leaping ability, the 5-10 Dunn drained what he called the biggest shot of his career.
"I've been working on it and I wasn't scared to take it," said Dunn, who also made two key free throws down the stretch. "I was open so I took it."
After Allen made one of two free throws, Dunn and Bird swished two free throws each before Thomas canned his sixth 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left, to make it 63-61.
Edmonds missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Salesian grabbed a loose ball and ran out the clock.
Sheldon coach Joey Rollings wasn't upset afterward, but slightly frustrated. It was a winnable game and it would have been a feather in its cap come NorCal seeding time.
This Sheldon team has a very nice mix of shooters, athletes and strong inside rebounders. The best part is they share the ball beautifully and have a number of players who can score.
The Bay Area has dominated the Northern California Division I playoffs but this Sheldon squad has a good shot to end the Sac-Joaquin Section drought.
Rollings, who coached two state championship teams in Arizona, wouldn't use fatigue as a factor in the loss.
"We'll learn from this," Rollings said. "That was a great game, a great battle. And they're a great team. They hit some big shots late and we missed some easy 3s and foul shots. We made some bad decisions late also and you can't do that in a game like this.
"But the effort was there. We'll be OK."
The league Salesian plays – the Bay Shore Athletic League – is normally loaded, but this season its down. So this game – in front of a loud raucous road crowd (Salesian did bring a very large, loud contingent of its own) – was just what Mellis wanted.
"This could have definitely gone either way," Mellis said. "We showed some grit at the end against a very impressive team."
Bird, who didn't take a shot the second quarter and tallied 13 of his team-high in the second half, said Mellis had been building up Sheldon all week.
"He was right," Bird said. "Those guys were good." Salesian 63, Sheldon 61
Salesian 18 11 15 19 - 63
Sheldon 19 16 13 13 - 61SALESIAN (22-2):
Mario Dunn 2 5-8 10, Markel Leonard 2 3-4 7, Davion Mize 1 1-4 4, Jabari Bird 6 4-4 19, Jeffrey Parker 1 4-4 6, Freddie Tagaloa 1 0-1 2, Jermaine Edmonds 6 2-3 15. Totals 19 19-28 63. SHELDON (18-5):
Armani Hampton 1 0-0 2, D'Erryl Williams 3 3-4 9, Ryan Manning 2 0-0 5, Kyi Thomas 8 0-0 22, Dakarai Allen 4 5-8 15, Chris Haney 1 1-2 3, Nate Lese 0 4-4 4, Tyler Morris 0 1-2 1. Totals 19 14-20 61. 3-pointers:
Bird 3, Dunn, Mize, Edwards, Manning, Thomas 6, Allen 2. Fouled out: