Blake Mason knew he’d have his hands full, and then some.
The Sheldon High School junior center would be surrendering a good 5 inches in height and his reach wouldn’t be nearly as long as that of his high-profile, long-limbed, 6-foot-9 Woodcreek counterpart, Jordan Brown.
Although Brown, a freshman, played well beyond his years, Mason and his teammates came away with what they really wanted – a victory.
Sheldon scored its final six points in a virtual blur to hold off Woodcreek 62-55 Wednesday night in a spirited Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal at Sleep Train Arena.
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The expansive NBA floor seemed to better showcase the jaw-dropping skills of Brown, who already has college recruiters from across the country clamoring for his attention. And the big floor was a racetrack for the swift guards of Sheldon, a section powerhouse fast regaining its championship form after missing the postseason last season.
Using spin moves and post-up plays and running the floor, Brown had 23 points and 20 rebounds, though Mason fronted him, backed him and made him work.
“I knew I had to get plenty of sleep because if I was lazy or not sharp, Brown would’ve had 40 on me,” Mason said. “He’s a great player already. We’ll take the win. We’re excited.”
Mason had a dunk for a three-point play over Brown that put Sheldon ahead 51-45 with 5:31 to go, a measure-of-respect move that boosted his confidence.
Then the Huskies took over late. Drew Cobb attacked the lane and scored for a 58-54 lead with 1:08 to go, and Elishja Duplechan finished off Woodcreek with a driving basket and a steal and a basket with 7.9 seconds to go.
Saturday night, the Huskies (21-6) seek their fifth section title in six seasons under coach Joey Rollings and sixth overall since 2007, facing the winner of the Folsom-Pleasant Grove semifinal. Woodcreek (25-5) also advances to the Northern California Regional tournament, which starts next week.
Sheldon’s strength is terrific guard play. The Huskies often use a three point-guard lineup to maximize the dribbling, driving, dishing and defensive skills of Duplechan, Isaiah Brooks and Devin Greene. Brooks had 15 points, Duplechan 14, Matt Manning 14, Mason eight and Cobb nine in another balanced effort.
Those guards also outnumbered Woodcreek’s standout senior guard, Noah Blackwell, who had 13 points.
“The Sheldon guards are nice,” Brown said. “We couldn’t stop them from driving on us. It was a fun game, but we wanted the win.”
Said Rollings, “Our guards were great. You don’t have to score to be a great player. And we haven’t hit our peak. We’re still climbing.”
Duplechan said he enjoys competing with his fellow guards. No one compares scoring totals, just steals, assists and floor burns.
“No one has better guard play in NorCal,” Duplechan said with an assuring grin. “We play hard and we trust each other. It’s a team thing.”