Watch Marcus Bagley and Sheldon beat De La Salle in playoffs
It is a team of skill, ball handlers and defenders.
There are shooters and dunkers that dot the roster of the Sheldon High School basketball team, including a 6-foot-8 national recruit recruit in Marcus Bagley who often delivers buckets emphatically above the rim.
And then there’s Justin Nguyen: a composure guy if things become chaotic, a bail-out guy if things become dire.
He’s a senior guard, a smooth and steady ball handler. Never mind his diminutive frame and unassuming nature. As the kids like to say, Nguyen can ball. And Nguyen can win.
With Nguyen leading the charge and six players scoring, all of them defending with purpose, Sheldon outlasted De La Salle 60-53 on Saturday night in a CIF Northern California Open Division semifinal game in south Sacramento.
Nguyen scored 13 points, none bigger than his 3-pointer with 1:34 left for a 56-48 lead. This came two minutes after he delivered an alley-oop pass to Xavion Brown for a dunk that electrified the overflow home crowd.
Xavier Brown had 17 in another superb effort. He has been an unsung effort-and-grit guy. Xavion Brown had five and Bagley had 10 in his first playoff action of the season.
Kaito Williams scored nine and Dontrell Hewlett had six as every key Husky played a key role in bouncing the Spartans of the North Coast Section who came in at 29-3, including snapping the 30-game winning streak of Weston Ranch of Stockton on Tuesday.
Sheldon came in 0-3 all time against De La Salle, including falling to the Spartans in the 2004 NorCal Division I finals and in the 2011 NorCal semifinals. Sheldon (23-10) will defend its NorCal Open title Tuesday at Cosumnes River College against a familiar foe: Modesto Christian.
The Crusaders beat Cal-Hi Sports state No. 1-ranked Salesian of Richmond 56-55 in the other semifinal, thus creating a rematch of last weekend’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title thriller at Golden 1 Center, won by Sheldon, which is in its fourth NorCal Open final and third in succession.
Nguyen is ready for Tuesday. So is everyone in Huskies teal and black.
“Justin’s such a good player, and he’s so underrated,” Sheldon coach Joey Rollings said. “He does everything for us.”
Said Bagley, “He’s a true point guard. He makes us all better.”
And Nguyen, the tireless third-year varsity player, “I feel that I have a lot of experience. I just play hard. I just play my game.”
Bagley’s game was a welcomed sight for Sheldon coaches, players and fans who appreciate his all-around game. He has not played since Feb. 8 in a Delta League finale against Elk Grove, nursing a sore back.
Bagley looked a bit rusty against De La Salle, missing two dunks, but he also showed moments of why he’s such a good team player. He can play inside and out, rebound and score.
“He gives us rebounding, composure, a big body,” Rollings said.
Bagley was joined in the locker room by older brother Marvin Bagley III, the Kings rookie first-round pick slowed of late by a sprained left knee.
“It feels great to be back,” Marcus Bagley said. “It’s playoff time. I was ready. It’s what we all dream about as players – playing for a championship.”
Union Mine girls 59, Seaside 29 in Seaside – The No. 16-seeded Diamondbacks of El Dorado moved to 3-0 in the Division III bracket with a defensive effort on the road over the fourth-seeded Spartans, thrusting them into a NorCal championship on Tuesday in the East Bay.
Union Mine will play at second-seeded Oakland, a 56-54 semifinal winner over Woodside Priory in the other semifinal.
Ali McDonald had 24 points and 12 rebounds for Union Mine, and Carley Zaragoza finished with nine points, 14 rebounds and nine assists.