The players Sheldon High School faced Friday night might prevail in any tug-of-war or arm wrestling contest, bearing the sort of chiseled arms you do not sleeve.
The Serra Padres of San Mateo, one-time home to sporting icons Lynn Swann, Barry Bonds and Tom Brady, put some muscle to Sheldon in a CIF Northern California Regional Open Division first-round game with some brutish picks and to-the-deck fouls, only to find out one painful lesson: The Huskies can hammer, too, and they can run, and score, and transform a foul-fest into their sort of pace.
Sheldon pulled away in the fourth quarter to deliver a 71-50 triumph over the Bay Area visitors to set up a showdown with the biggest bruiser on the block.
What looms in a NorCal semifinal is Cal-Hi Sports' state-ranked No. 1 Salesian of Richmond in a battle of the top two ranked teams in Northern California.
In withstanding a contest slowed by 46 fouls, the Huskies (26-5) took over with typical balance down the stretch that has defined the four-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions.
Antonio Lewis powered in for a 57-42 lead, Ryan Manning hit a three-pointer to make it 60-46, Darin Johnson had a leaner to push the lead to 65-47, and Dakarai Allen drove for a 69-50 margin, and there's your game.
"Very physical, very strong team," Manning said of Serra (25-6). "We could see how tough they were when they came in with those arms huge."
D'Erryl Williams and Johnson, no slouches in the muscle-bound department, paced the Huskies with 20 points each. Manning had 15, Lewis 10 and Allen six.
Sheldon trots out perhaps Northern California's most balanced and unselfish team and that trend will have to play out to topple a Salesian team that has won 75 consecutive games against NorCal foes, including beating the Huskies 69-60 in a nonleague game last month.
"Sheldon was really tough to cover, a tough matchup," Serra coach Chuck Rapp said. "They are a really good team with a lot of talent.
"When you play a team like that you have to play real well to beat them."
Sheldon wasn't at its best against Salesian. It missed all 14 of its three-point shots.
"We still have a bad taste in our mouth from that game," Manning said. "It's not like us at all to shoot that bad. We were just off."
Manning and fellow four-year varsity performers Williams and Allen understand the significance of the Salesian game. There is no next season for this group of seniors that includes Johnson and Lewis.
"It's our final chance to win a state championship," said Manning, whose team won the NorCal D-I title last season. " No holding back."
Henry Caruso, Serra's powerfully built 6-foot-5 senior headed to Princeton, pulled his team back into it with drives and jumpers. He scored 25 points.
Allen said the physical nature of the game can only benefit his team going forward.
"We know we can't let teams push us around," Allen said.
Sheldon coach Joey Rollings said his team is ready for the Salesian rematch Tuesday at Albany High.
"We'll be rested," he said. "Last time it was a close game. They're a great team and we're a great team. It'll be exciting."