JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS / jvillegas@sacbee.com

D'Erryl Williams, left, and Darin Johnson are keys in Sheldon's quest for a fourth consecutive Division I title.

Expect the unexpected in prep basketball playoffs

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 - 4:00 pm

The high school basketball postseason is here, and that usually means anything goes.

History shows that upsets happen in the Sac-Joaquin Section girls and boys brackets, and if some power programs do fall in the tournaments, it will register as seismic tremors.

The girls postseason starts tonight, and the boys playoffs begin Wednesday.

Section semifinalists and champions in Divisions I through V advance to the Northern California Regional tournament. The NorCal finals and CIF State Championships return to Sleep Train Arena next month. Schools in D-VI compete in an eight-team tournament and do not advance past the finals, which will be played at Galt High.

Here are five questions regarding the boys and girls section playoffs:

Boys

CAN ANYONE BEAT SHELDON?

The Huskies have been The Bee's No. 1 ranked team since the middle of the 2011-12 season and stand as the state's fifth-ranked team, according to Cal-Hi Sports.

They target an unprecedented fourth consecutive Division I title as a well-coached bunch under Joey Rollings and anchored by four-year players Dakarai Allen, Ryan Manning and D'Erryl Williams, joined this season by Darin Johnson. There isn't a more versatile lineup in the region, and Sheldon is worth a watch for its selfless style of play and sheer entertainment value. Still, odd things happen at Sleep Train Arena, and Bella Vista and Pleasant Grove loom.

IS THREE ONE TOO MANY?

Teams are accustomed to two-man officiating crews in the regular season, but come section semifinal time, three-man crews become the norm. The officials association will argue that fewer fouls are called with three-man crews.

Coaches, players, administrators and most regular-season observers annually dispute this, arguing an extra referee generates more calls, often slowing the pace of the game.

Most troubling is when a referee admits he likes to be seen, with one saying last postseason after a foul-fest game at Sleep Train: "I had to show my girlfriend my good mechanics."

IS A SAC-ANTELOPE D-II FINAL INEVITABLE?

Based on how these teams have performed, and the veteran coaching touch of Derek Swafford at Sacramento and Rob Richards at Antelope, such a Division II final would make for a great show.

But beware of Grant with versatile star De'Sean Parsons, a 6-foot-7 ballhandling scorer whose team targets a semifinal showdown against Sacramento.

Burbank looms in the lower bracket with forward David Straughter. Those Titans crave a shot against the Antelope Titans in a second-round game Friday.

CAN TWO TALL TALENTS TOPPLE A HEAVYWEIGHT?

In the D-III field, that is the plan for Casa Roble coach Bel Lange.

The Rams are the No. 3 seed, in the opposite bracket of top-seeded Modesto Christian. Casa Roble is led by brothers Mason, a 6-9 junior, and Eric Stuteville, a 6-10 senior. They are shot blockers, rebounders and players with offensive skills that include high-post passing.

WHO ARE FIVE UNSUNG BOYS PLAYERS?

Victor Rustin of D-I Franklin is a 6-3 senior forward, a team captain who heads a darkhorse. Andrew Lewis of D-II Laguna Creek is a 6-3 junior guard who averages 17.5 points.

Isaiah Pineiro of D-III Placer is a 6-5 forward who leads the Hillmen in scoring (19.0) and plays with a toughness that made him an All-Metro defensive back last season. Tim Spiridonov of D-IV West Campus is a 6-3 senior wing who scores 12.4 points and collects 8.9 rebounds per game. His Warriors closed the regular season with an upset victory over Capital Christian. D.J. Wilson of D-V defending champion Capital Christian is a 6-8 junior forward averaging 9.8 points, and is capable of going for 25 or more.

Girls

CAN ANYONE TOP SAC (D-II) OR ST. MARY'S (D-I)?

St. Mary's of Stockton has been a national power for years, having used a suffocating press to win 13 section titles in various divisions since 1999. Sacramento reached the D-III section finals eight consecutive seasons, falling to St. Mary's four times and winning the past two before this season's move to D-II. St. Mary's and Sac are headed to the new Open Division for elite programs come NorCal time, barring a stunning early-round section upset.

WHAT ABOUT A KENNEDY- OAK RIDGE D-I REMATCH?

After Kennedy toppled the Trojans in a double-overtime thriller last year for the section title, a rematch this postseason would be possible in the semifinals. A lot of key players return, including the dynamic Lynette Johnson of Kennedy, a Utah State-bound senior guard who can play in the post, shoot, defend and pass. Oak Ridge coach Steve White has another balanced team that shares the ball and defends at a textbook level. With St. Mary's likely headed to the Open, a Kennedy-Oak Ridge rematch could also occur deep in the NorCal playoffs.

CAN NEVADA UNION AND RIO AMERICANO RISE AGAIN?

If NU defeats St. Mary's in a semifinal meeting en route to the D-I title, and the Raiders take down heavy D-III favorite Christian Brothers in the final, then welcome back to the elite. NU and Rio combined for 11 section titles and 17 title appearances between 1977 and 1999 but neither has claimed a championship since NU in D-I in 1999.

WHICH TITLE CONTENDER HAS THE BEST DEFENDER?

Sacramento has suffocated teams with pressure, traps and "Shaq" down low. That's "Shaq" as in Ayanna Edwards, the Dragons' 6-4 junior post and shot-blocking specialist who goes by "Shaq" for her defensive prowess and big personality.

WHO ARE FIVE UNSUNG GIRLS PLAYERS?

In D-I, Nevada Union 5-9 senior guard Nicole Lierly averages 9.7 points with a flair for late-game dramatics. In D-II, Florin 6-foot junior post Dalayna Sampton averages 17.2 points and 14.8 rebounds. In D-III, Inderkum senior shooting guard Sakara Brewer scores 15.2 a game and is capable of 25-point efforts. In D-IV, West Campus junior guard Barbara Keomany averages 9.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.2 steals. In D-V, Capital Christian 5-8 junior forward Haleigh Filer contributes 15.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.8 steals a game in a model of consistency.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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