The rematch, eagerly anticipated and just what the basketball doctor ordered, is here.
Two weeks to the day Sheldon High School suffered a kick to the collective psyche in a one-point, last-second loss to Woodcreek in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I final, the programs will meet in Santa Clara on Saturday for a much greater prize.
On Tuesday night, top-seeded Woodcreek beat De La Salle of Concord 51-46 in one of the CIF Northern California Open Division semifinals in Placer County, and in south Sacramento, second-seeded Sheldon topped Archbishop Mitty of San Jose 56-43 to set the table for a bit of regional history.
Never before has the Sacramento region had two local entries compete for the NorCal crown at the highest division.
“This is what we wanted,” Sheldon guard Elishja Duplechan said after scoring 25 points to lead the Huskies.
Forward LJ Williams had 11 points, and Drew Cobb and Isaiah Duplechan scored six each to pace the Huskies, who used their trademark stifling defense to reach the 30-win plateau for the first time in program history.
In Roseville, Jordan Brown had 23 points and 16 rebounds, and Jackson Hughes and Delis Boggs-Smith had nine points each for Woodcreek (31-2) to eliminate the Spartans for the second time in three years in the NorCal tournament.
Sheldon (30-3) put the defensive clamps on a Mitty team (18-11) that played its best ball the second half of the season, including beating Bellarmine of San Jose in the Central Coast Section Open finals. Sheldon used defense and a late 3-pointer by Isaiah Duplechan to beat Bellarmine 47-46 on Friday in an Open Division opener.
Defense is the mantra laid out by fiery coach Joey Rollings, a message well received over the years. The theme is that if the offense isn’t clicking, then the D should always be humming along.
Cobb, a powerhouse guard, had 10 rebounds, Williams eight and energizer guard Dale Curry five. Cobb also had four assists.
The Duplechan twins, who excel both in the classroom and on the court, combined to make 5 of 11 3-pointers. Elishja’s 3 at the end of the first half gave the Huskies a 27-15 lead after Mitty muscled its way to an 8-7 lead after the first quarter.
Then the Huskies went to work on defense, guarding players man-on-man, firing fast hands in to poke at the ball, moving their feet to cut off the lane and boxing out.
“That’s what we do – play defense,” Rollings said. “We get after it, and we battle the big guys inside even though we’re not that big. We’re sharing the ball, making the extra pass, making shots, playing defense – playing Huskies ball.”