Watch the off-the-backboard dunk by Marcus Bagley at Sheldon High practice
With Christmas gifts ripped open, the New Year suddenly here, the regional high school basketball scene figures to become much more clear in the coming weeks.
League play starts this week in earnest across the Sac-Joaquin Section. Sheldon is The Bee’s top-ranked team for boys, its 8-4 record not including a single section setback.
The defending CIF Northern California Open Division champion has played a state-wide and national schedule, including games in Las Vegas and San Diego. The Huskies open Delta League action Wednesday at home against No. 11 Franklin, marking Sheldon’s first home game of the season.
Sheldon is riding a 50-game league winning streak. The Huskies have the region’s most devastating lineup, one that includes Marcus Bagley, Xavier and Xavion Brown Josh Morgan, Justin Nguyen, Kaito Williams and others.
No. 2 Rocklin has surged to a 16-1 record, falling only to Central Section powerhouse Clovis West.
Thunder wins include rolling No. 12 Jesuit 87-52 to take the Mel Goode Classic in Yuba City and winning the Torrey Pines Tournament in San Diego. The Thunder have already recorded their most wins in a season since going 20-11 in 2013.
Coach Steve Taylor is in his fourth season on his second tour as coach. The Thunder have relied on guards Darrius Kendall (20 points a game) and Cory Gohl as the team often has four players in double figures.
“This is year four,” Taylor said of his return, “and we are right on track.”
Rocklin visits No. 5 Folsom on Friday in a Sierra Foothill League opener.
The SFL is the section’s best at this point and includes No. 4 Whitney (13-5) and No. 6 Oak Ridge (13-4).
Folsom coach Mike Wall last week won his 400th career game, and he was moved by the rousing ovation he received from Bulldogs players in the locker room afterward.
No. 3 Grant (12-2) is the runaway favorite to win the Metropolitan League, though longtime Metro heavy and No. 18 Burbank (10-6) and Metro newcomer and rising-fast No. 14 Monterey Trail (8-7) each will have a say.
No. 7 Liberty Ranch is 16-1 under coach Josh Williams, who continues to show he’s one of the best in the business despite losses through graduation. The Hawks are big favorites to win another Sierra Valley Conference championship behind dazzling guard Jalen Patterson, who averages 24.5 points.
The Capital Athletic League includes No. 8 Sacramento, No. 10 Vista del Lago, No. 13 Rio Americano and No. 15 El Camino.
The preseason CAL favorite was Capital Christian, but the Cougars have stumbled to a 2-11 start amid the second-most difficult schedule in the section behind Sheldon. The losses have come to out-of-area powers and to Folsom in overtime (64-63) and Oak Ridge (49-47).
The Cougars open league play at home against Rio Americano on Wednesday and then visit Sacramento and Vista del Lago.
Antelope is ranked No. 1 by The Bee in girls basketball for the first time, roaring at 14-1 with a loss to 12-2 Bear Creek of Stockton.
Coach Sean Chambers was a leading force for the Highlands boys basketball team that was Bee-ranked No. 1 all of the 1982-83 season, going 33-1, and he instructs his players now to compete as he did: relentlessly.
Antelope opens Capital Valley Conference play Friday against Bella Vista. The Titans are led by standout sophomore guard Jzaniya Harriel, who averages 22.6 points and 11.7 rebounds. Kaiija Lesane is scoring 10.3 a game and pulling in 9.3 rebounds, and the team averages 12.9 steals a game.
Antelope has regional wins over No. 4 Del Oro (80-63), No. 6 Elk Grove (83-70) and No. 9 Franklin (58-35).
No. 2 Folsom (11-2), Del Oro, No. 7 Oak Ridge (11-4) and No. 8 Granite Bay (10-5) will battle for the SFL championship, won last season by Folsom. Speedy sophomore guard Charity Gallegos leads Folsom.
No. 3 McClatchy is the favorite to win another Metro championship with skill, size and depth, headed by Kamryn Hall and Nia Lowery.
Sacramento, a longtime Metro member, is now in the CAL and looms as the heavy favorite under fourth-year starting guard RyAnne Walters.
The Delta includes Elk Grove, Franklin and No. 13 Cosumnes Oaks.
Elk Grove (10-2) is off to a fast start under first-year coach Trisha Campbell, who took over when popular coach Larry Price died shortly after last season after battling an illness. Keyara McCoy is averaging 15.7 points, Amayia Evans 12.8 and Maya Chelini 12.3.
Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: email@example.com, @SacBee_JoeD, sacbee.com/high-school.