The Sheldon Huskies grew rather fond of Power Balance Pavilion the last few years, winning three consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section championships and adding a Northern California large-school championship in a historic effort last week with a spirited triumph over rival Jesuit.
Saturday night, the Huskies couldn't wipe away the bitter taste of a bitter end to a sweet season, falling to national No. 3 Mater Dei of Santa Ana 66-48 in a CIF State Basketball Championship Division I final better suited for shoulder pads.
Mirroring Sheldon's disgust in what was supposed to be a marquee moment to conclude the high school basketball season was the sight of hundreds of fans who shelled out a tidy $12 for parking and $16 per ticket filing out midway through the fourth quarter. The scene seemed to suggest the consumer didn't come to watch the referees work and pile fouls onto both teams.
The lone Sheldon starter left by the middle of the fourth quarter was point guard D'Erryl Williams.
The rest of his starting mates had fouled out Nate Iese late in the third with a referee chasing him to the bench yelling, "Tuck your shirt in!" and then forgetting to allow Sheldon the chance to put in a fresh player. Iese had 12 rebounds and six inside points against taller foes.
Sheldon's national 6-foot-6 junior guard recruit, Dakarai Allen, fouled out on a questionable play under the basket that even had a Mater Dei official muttering, "Wow, Sheldon should be mad." Allen had five points on 2-of-12 shooting and six rebounds.
With 5:19 left, senior Kyi Thomas (12 points) fouled out with his team down 53-40. Sheldon junior Ryan Manning fouled out with 3:36 to go with five points and a look of dejection.
Perhaps the top athlete on the floor Mater Dei's 6-7 forward Xavier Johnson fouled out on a technical foul in the third quarter. He had seven points and six rebounds.
The game was so erratic a crew of officials who worked the earlier contests and an evaluator nodded and frowned at what unfolded in front of them.
Still, none of this could take away from the season Sheldon (29-6) produced or disguise the talent and skill of Mater Dei (34-2), which repeated as state champion for the program's record ninth state title.
Katin Reinhardt, a 6-foot-4 guard headed to UNLV, scored 30 points, including a state-final-record six three-pointers. Stanley Johnson had 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Mater Dei was the most complete team Sheldon had faced, able to score inside and outside, run and defend. The Monarchs led 21-18 after the first quarter and 33-27 at halftime before pulling away.
Williams, a junior rock for Sheldon, played through a strained hamstring and couldn't attack as he has so frequently this season. He had 13 points. Still, the Huskies offered no excuses.
"We couldn't control the referees, and they called what they saw," Sheldon coach Joey Rollings said. "We still played hard. D'Erryl playing hurt (was a factor). He couldn't attack, and as he goes, we go."
With the core group returning, Sheldon expects another title run and it expects to grow from the experience.
"It's something to build on," Rollings said. "Next year we want to win it. We'll learn from this."