The fastest team in the tournament went into idle for a bit Wednesday night.
Before their Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal against West of Tracy, the Sheldon Huskies went to the floor. As in, the locker-room floor to throttle down, to think, to visualize the setting and the season.
Sheldon responded with a sluggish start at Pacific, in part because the preceding game went into double overtime. The Huskies soon found their legs and took off like a jet, transforming a close game into a rout.
Behind their familiar staples of defense, sharing the ball and hitting 3-pointers, the top-seeded Huskies rolled the Wolfpack 81-59 to roar back into the finals for the sixth time this decade. They seek their fifth championship under coach Joey Rollings on Saturday at 8 p.m. here against Woodcreek.
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“We laid down too much before the game,” Sheldon guard Drew Cobb, laughing as backcourt mate Elishja Duplechan agreed in explaining the slow start that included forced shots and committing turnovers. “We tried to do the meditate thing, when we normally run up and down the halls. We’re blaming Big Rich for the slow start.”
Big Rich would be Rich Manning, Sheldon’s 6-foot-11 assistant coach whose basketball pedigree includes an NBA playing career and a Bee Player of the Year honor at Center High in 1988.
“Visualize, you bet!” Manning said in defense.
Speaking of defense, the Huskies overwhelmed West with fast hands and feet, meaning difficult access in the lanes for the Wolfpack. West averages 79 points but managed 35 through three quarters. Cobb, Duplechan, LJ Williams and Dale Curry led the defensive charge. And it’s a simple team theme for Rollings.
“If you want to play, to get on the floor, you have to play defense and get after it,” the coach said. “We’re a great defensive team. Our guys really play hard.”
Duplechan, a senior guard with superb grades and interest from Ivy League schools, scored 25 points. Curry, a relentless guard, had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Ten Huskies scored and 11 players saw action as depth is also a Sheldon strength.
All section semifinalists advance to the Northern California tournament that starts next week.
Woodcreek 69, St. Mary’s 57 – Jordan Brown overcame first-half foul trouble to finish with 30 points and 10 rebounds and the Timberwolves advanced to their first D-I final. They won D-II championships in 2003 and 2010.
Tyrell Roberts had 14 points and Jackson Hughes 11 for Woodcreek, ranked second in NorCal behind Sheldon by MaxPreps.
Whitney 60, Del Oro 52 – Jashon Lewis scored 18 points and had 12 rebounds, and Tyler Austin had 16 and nine to pace the top-seeded Wildcats, who reached a final for the first time by beating their Placer County neighbors.
Trevor Drake had 20 points and Stone Smartt 13 for 12th-seeded Del Oro, which upset Inderkum and Grant to get here. Del Oro was attempting to reach its first final since 1998, in Division III. Whitney faces Beyer in the final at 8 p.m. Friday at Pacific.
Beyer 63, Burbank 56 (2 OT) – Brian Perry scored 29 points and keyed a late fourth-quarter rally with jumpers and free throws, and the Patriots of Modesto held on in double overtime to reach a section final for the first time in program history.
Keshawn Bruner scored 21 for Burbank, which hasn’t reached a final since 1999. Isiah Davis scored 11 and Earvin Knox 10 for the Titans, who were led in rebounding by Levelle Bailey’s 13.
Both teams struggled to shoot. Beyer made just 18 of 51 shots for 35 percent, and Burbank went 22 of 70 for 31 percent.