The first two meetings this high school basketball season between Jesuit and Sheldon were for area rankings and position in the Delta River League standings.
Game 3 was for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I boys championship.
The bell will ring for Round 4 tonight at Power Balance Pavilion, the winner fitted for the CIF Northern California Regional large-school championship belt and a date to play for the state crown.
Never in the 30-year history of the NorCal tournament have two Sacramento-area boys met for a larger-school regional championship.
What makes this historic game even more enduring to fans is that Jesuit and Sheldon are defined by their skill and sportsmanship, performing at a high level without bravado or venom.
These rivals appreciate and respect each other.
"Two teams in the final is huge for this area," Jesuit coach Greg Harcos said. "You always hear about how the Bay Area is tougher and better than this area. But we're pretty good here, too."
Pretty good, indeed.
Opened in 1997 in the Elk Grove Unified School District, Sheldon (28-5) beat Jesuit in their first three meetings by 18, one and five points. A junior-heavy team, Sheldon has played beyond its years. Leading the way are junior point guard D'Erryl Williams and 6-foot-6 Dakarai Allen.
A regional academic and athletic presence since the 1960s, Jesuit (27-6) is a senior-laden group headed by versatile guards Bryce Pressley and Parker Uu and point guard Akachi Okugo.
Both teams pulled for each other to get here. Jesuit used a 14-3 closing run in Tuesday's semifinal to topple top-seeded De La Salle of Concord 44-41. Meanwhile, Sheldon polished off McClymonds of Oakland in the other semifinal.
Sheldon and Jesuit ensured that an East Bay team would not reach the D-I final for the first time. Only three Sacramento-area schools have reached the NorCal D-I final: Jesuit (six), Sheldon (two) and Valley (one). Only Jesuit in 1993 and '94 won the NorCal title before falling to national power Crenshaw of Los Angeles in the state finals both time.
Getting to this point alone is an accomplishment.
"I don't think people realize how hard it is to do this, to win this many games against good teams," Williams said.
Added Pressley: "It's crazy. It shows how strong Sacramento is, especially the DRL. Jesuit and Sheldon know each other so well, what plays we run, and that makes it fun. I'm really excited. We all are."
Allen may have been speaking for the region when he said: "We finally got over the hump. We've lost some close games in the NorCals before."
Sheldon coach Joey Rollings told his team following the win over McClymonds: "We're so close to our dream. If we make it to the state finals, we're winning. I know it. But we know how good Jesuit is, and you know they're coming after us."
Williams and Pressley epitomize their teams.
They handle the ball, shoot and defend well. They are also sons of former players D'Erryl Williams Sr. played at Santa Clara, and Harold Pressley played at Villanova and for the Kings. Their sons fought through injuries this season. Williams dislocated his right little finger while Pressley as well as Uu battled an assortment of ailments.
"Right now, it's heart and guts," said Harcos.
Today's favorite? Many will point to Sheldon, which has beaten Jesuit seven consecutive times over three seasons.
Can the momentum hold up?
"To win the championship, you have to beat the best teams," Harcos said. "We feel extremely lucky to have another chance."