, Sacramento Bee staff star Joe Davidson offered reasons why the Sheldon (Sacramento)
Huskies would take down top seed Salesian in a CIF Northern California Open Division semifinal game.
I gave my thoughts and reasons why the Pride from Richmond would prevail.
Sheldon gutted out a
remarkable 63-59 game
, one of the best games I've seen in a long time at St. Mary's College.
Today we turn our attention to the NorCal boys Open and Division I finals at Sleep Train Arena, home, for now, of the Sacramento Kings. Saturday it's an all day high school basketball bonanza.
Second seed Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove)
takes on No. 1 seed Deer Valley (Antioch)
at 4 p.m., before Sheldon, the fourth seed, battles Aaron Gordon
and No. 2 seed Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
at 8 p.m.
So, here is Joe's take on why the Sac-Joaquin Section kids from Pleasant Grove and Sheldon will sweep. Why Sac-Joaquin Section powers Pleasant Grove and Sheldon will sweep. …Joe Davidson:
You can't coach big but you can certainly coach a team, and that's what it boils down to here when crunching the data.
Bigs versus teams, and we're going with the five-man attack over the one-man dynamo brigade. Sacramento is about to score one for its region with Pleasant Grove taking down Deer Valley in the CIF Northern California Division I finals at Sleep Train Arena, followed several hours later by Sheldon toppling Mitty (San Jose) in the first NorCal Open Division championship.
The very fact that the Sacramento basketball brand can polish its image considerably with a 1-2 sweep is the over-the-top reason for the seedings upsets. Pleasant Grove and Sheldon also know Sleep Train, having played two games there in recent weeks in Sac-Joaquin Section play. Familiarity help, and in virtual toss-up games, you inch toward any ounce of advantage.
Pleasant Grove is a nice blend of skill, precision and drive. There are no off-the-charts national recruits on the Eagles roster, but there are college prospects, including three-year varsity starters in guards Malik Thames
and Matt Hayes
and shooting forward Cole Nordquist
Deer Valley, similarly new to all of this, counters with a McDonald's All-American in Marcus Lee
, a 6-foot-10 athletic marvel headed to Kentucky. He looks like NBA material. Don't agree? Get a load of his act. The co-star for the Wolverines is UNLV-bound guard Kendall Smith
Pleasant Grove players watched the show between Deer Valley and Sheldon in a nonleague game earlier this season, won in a thriller by Sheldon. Pleasant Grove's 6-6 emerging sophomore post Marquese Chriss
has to play out of his mind here. He will have to front, check, body and stand tall against Lee, who dunks on all comers, ready or not.
Eagles forward Matthew Smrekar
, a tough as they come, will have to step in and draw a charge on Lee. Body him up, box him out, get him in foul trouble. Or this: let Lee go wild and duck every time he soars down the lane.
In the Open, Sheldon has a chance to avenge an early loss to Mitty. That setback at Sheldon is a bit misleading because leading talents
, a powerfully build point guard headed to San Diego State, didn't play because of a sore ankle. Washington-bound guard Darin Johnson
Those two are reason enough to favor Sheldon here. Yes, there's the McDonald's factor here, too, as Aaron Gordon, all 6-9 of skill and will, is an outrageous talent. He will have his moments. The great ones always do. But he's outnumbered. Sheldon has what many of us believe is the best starting five in the state, one that just beat state No. 1 Salesian (Richmond) in a semifinal, and that's the same Salesian team that belted Mitty this season.
Williams and Johnson are flanked by San Diego State-bound Dakarai Allen
and ideal role players in Antonio Lewis
and Ryan Manning
. And it's the 6-6 Manning who has to deal the most with Gordon. He fears no one. He took on Lee of Deer Valley, and though Lee dominated, Sheldon won that game.
We feel a karma-heavy repeat.
Why Bay Area stallions Deer Valley and Mitty shall prevail. … Mitch Stephens:
Karma? You want to talk about Karma? Where was Karma Tuesday?
I buy you an early dinner at McCovey's — you splurge with some decedent chocolate soufflé for dessert even — guide your timid company hybrid through the dangerous, winding backroads of Moraga, introduce you to the important sophisticates of the Bay Area prep world, get you a courtside seat sitting next to the Jack Nicholson of St. Mary's College, and then. … then. … you have the audacity of being correct on your Sheldon pick and make me out as a fool. And you want to talk Karma?
No such thing brother.
If there's Karma, my boys from San Jose and Antioch will not only prevail but you'll load the back of my Subaru Baja with a Sleep Train Posturepedic special for the long haul home.
Honestly, I'd just settle for a game as special as the Sheldon-Salesian shuffle. That was as entertaining a high school game I've seen all year and though I was very sorry for the Salesian kids and coaching staff – no classier person than Salesian coach Bill Mellis — nothing to be ashamed or sorry for. If those teams faced 100 times, it would be split 50-50.
Players from both squads showed great heart and will at different times, no more than when Salesian seemingly had Sheldon on the ropes with four minutes to go. The Huskies earned their way into this title game and player-for-player they appear to have much more than Mitty. More balance. More firepower. More shooters.
But — you knew a big giant "but" was following — a player, a kid, a person, a warrior like Aaron Gordon comes along every generation. A player who can override the long odds and guide his team to victory.
Like I guided you to St. Mary's.
As athletically jaw-dropping as Gordon is — he's often compared to Blake Griffin at the prep level — he couldn't possibly overtake the magnificent sum of Sheldon's massive parts. But like all the great ones, such as Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd, he has the ability to lift and will the best from teammates. And at Mitty's best, collectively, they can beat Sheldon. Maybe at their very best.
The Monarchs will need to take care of the ball, first and foremost, but I think 6-2 junior Connor Peterson
is one of the most under-rated guards in Northern California. And 6-6 Brandon Farrell
can be an absolute beast. He's very strong and athletic.
I think for the first time in a very long while, Mitty enters as the underdog and relaxed and clear-thinking, they can and will hang early. The Monarchs beat Sheldon earlier — albeit without Williams and Johnson — but Williams is banged up again and Sleep Train isn't much of a shooter's arena. If Johnson is a little off, that just opens the door for Gordon who has proven time and time again over his illustrious career that if the game is close, he'll find a way to help his team win.
Gerry Freitas, the former college assistant and scout who runs a recruiting website and who has more knowledge in his pinky than you and I combined, said this of Gordon: "He impacts the game more than many teams do collectively. What makes him special are three things: his superior God-given and versatile talent, his incredible motor and his will to win."
As far as Deer Valley and Pleasant Grove? Great match-up. I was fortunate enough to watch Pleasant Grove for a week down at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic last season and was so impressed with coach John DuPonte and how he runs his team. Malik Thames is a special kid and talent and I love how he handles his teammates and runs the show.
But — you knew there was going to be another giant "but" — Deer Valley point guard Kendall Smith (22.5 points, 6.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds) and 6-10 Marcus Lee (17.9 points, 19.2 rebounds, 6.9 blocks) are a generational duo. Perhaps the best, or most prolific duo, in Bay Area history.
Two guys don't make teams, but Deer Valley has superb athletes, eight or nine deep, including the Webster brothers Nsimba Webster
and Nzuzi Webster
. They have Kenny Robinson
and Jeff Brown
too and don't forget — a fact many have looked past, they have Muhammad Ali
, the greatest of all time.
Two major talents with good athletes can make a great team and Deer Valley is that.
You're right that coaches can't coach big and what Lee and Gordon – two of the Bays greatest bigs ever – do is change the interior. Every shot is changed and with every miss comes frustration, angst, thought and pressure. Those will be key factors in poor shooting percentages, wins from Mitty and Deer Valley and Karma pie for me at Applebees. Joe Davidson has covered high schools with The Sacramento Bee since 1988. Follow him on Twitter: @SacBee_JoeD; on Facebook: sacbeepreps. E-mail MaxPreps senior writer Mitch Stephens at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @MitchMashMax.