Joe Davidson

Sheldon charges back to beat Pleasant Grove 62-58

Not bad for such a young team.

The Sheldon Huskies, steeped in basketball tradition, play young and reckless in early stretches of games, firing passes out of bounds and losing people on defense. And it's costly, to the tune of double-digit deficits.

That theme played out again on Friday night against chief rival Pleasant Grove, but in what has been a common theme this triumphant bounce-back season, Sheldon put it all together beautifully in stretches. The reward this time was another Delta League championship, thanks to a spirited rally to beat the Eagles 62-58 in a jam-packed Sheldon gymnasium in one of the best rivalry settings in the state.

In avenging a 65-61 loss at Pleasant Grove on Jan. 23, Sheldon delivered notice that it has recovered fully from last season's lost campaign, an 8-win club rocked by CIF sanctions.

There is calm now where there used to be chaos, and the business-like Huskies rejoiced in their dressing room as champions.

"We're back," said an ecstatic Sheldon coach Joey Rollings. "We're a young team, a lot of juniors and sophomores, but we're back. We're playing hard, playing team basketball. We're not playing great basketball right now, but we're not quitting in games, and we compete, and that's a sign of a very good team."

How good can this group be, coach?

"We have great potential," he said. "We haven't reached it. We're close to being a great team."

Sheldon has fielded quite a few of those, including the four-peat Sac-Joaquin Section champion run, capped by the 2012-13 club that rates as one of the region's all-time best, headed by four-year anchor leaders Dakarai Allen and D'Erryl Williams.

A mainstay on that team was Devin Greene, a blur-quick guard who is now a junior leader for the Huskies. He had two free throws for a 58-54 lead with 31.3 seconds to go against Pleasant Grove and finished with nine points. Ryan Manning was on those earlier Sheldon teams and is now competing for Air Force, though kid brother Matt keep the family legacy alive on the current edition. His three-point shooting rallied the Huskies here.

Matt Manning had 23 points, making five three-pointers in the second half, and he had 10 rebounds.

"We try to stay calm when we get down early, and then we try to play our game," Greene said. "Calm is the key, and playing as a team. And having a Manning really helps, too."

Having a deep team especially helps, and few teams in the section can match the depth, skill and athleticism of Sheldon. Other key players include Drew Cobb, who had 14, Isaiah Brooks, Anthony Cook, who sealed the game with a late steal, and post Blake Mason, who made Pleasant Grove center Marquese Chriss work for his shots.

Headed to Washington on scholarship, Chriss had 15 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots, showcasing the skills and tenacity that make him such a difficult cover. Johann Tate had another solid game for Pleasant Grove, too.

Sheldon (17-5, 12-1) and Pleasant Grove (19-7, 10-3) could meet in the Division I playoffs, a field that also includes Woodcreek, Kennedy, Cosumnes Oaks, Franklin, Jesuit, Oak Ridge and Granite Bay, among others.

Sheldon on Saturday plays at longtime section power Modesto Christian, which will be a real force and factor in the D-II playoffs. This is a nonleague game, all part of Rollings' ambitious scheduling to get his team ready for the postseason.

Sheldon beat NorCal powerhouse El Cerrito 62-61 in a nonleague thriller earlier. The Huskies earlier this week beat Grant in Delta play 104-99 in four overtimes.

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.