Joe Davidson

No. 3 Sheldon beats No. 5 Jesuit in throwback thriller as coach reaches milestone

Sheldon Huskies guard Dom Johnson (1) gets between Jesuit Marauders Darin Similai (14) and Chris Simpson (10) for a layup.
Sheldon Huskies guard Dom Johnson (1) gets between Jesuit Marauders Darin Similai (14) and Chris Simpson (10) for a layup.

It has suddenly become fashionable to look old school.

The basketball players from Jesuit and Sheldon high schools on Friday night wore game pants rolled under at the waist, all the better to shorten the shorts to a near 1980s look.

John Stockton would be proud.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer would also be impressed with how these teams compete and how they embrace old-school values of sharing the ball, playing defense and letting their game do all the talking.

Ranked third by The Bee, Sheldon outlasted No. 5 Jesuit 60-57 in a terrific Delta League contest of storied regional heavies in front of an overflow crowd in south Sacramento on Friday night.

The teams look the part of Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship contenders, which is fitting – again – since the programs have combined to reach 25 section title games, winning 16 of them.

Both teams have ballhandlers, shooters, size inside, role players and coaches who stress fundamentals. Jon Rotz is in his third season coaching Jesuit. He was the starting guard for the Marauders’ powerhouse team of 1992.

Joey Rollings is in his ninth season as Sheldon’s coach, and Friday marked his 200th victory with the program, which includes an ongoing 40-game league winning streak and four section championships in six title-game appearances.

But funny thing about Rollings. He is so focused on practices, games and family that he had no idea how many wins he had. It was assistant coach Rich Viano-Nitschke who told the team after the game.

“I barely know what day it is,” Rollings said with a laugh. “I had no idea. Overall, our goal is to still win a state championship.”

The more immediate goal is to win the program’s fourth consecutive Delta title and seventh in the last eight seasons. Of course, Jesuit may have a say in all of this.

The teams play again Feb. 2 at Jesuit, which is 10-3 and has no local losses. Sheldon is 12-3 with one local loss, to Bee No. 1 Capital Christian early in the season. The rematch is Jan. 20 in the nightcap of the all-day Adidas Challenge at Sheldon. Jesuit plays No. 4 Oak Ridge in the same event.

Dale Currie had 16 points and five rebounds and led Sheldon’s frenetic effort for in three quarters. The senior guard sat the first quarter for missing a practice as he battled the flu.

Dom Johnson and Kaito Williams had 10 each for Sheldon, including big shots down the stretch. Williams also had five rebounds, five assists and four steals. Justin Nguyen, another guard, had eight points and key free throws late. Xavier Brown had six points, and center Chris Wriedt had four points and 17 rebounds, responding to the challenge of Rollings who said earlier in the week the coaches on the bench could collect more rebounds than he has.

“He was great tonight,” Rollings said. “We need that from him.”

Jesuit also had balanced scoring. Guard Jake Virga had 16 points, mostly from outside, and 6-foot-8 forward Elias King had 15, nine below his average as the Huskies made him work for everything. The national recruit had two field goals in the second half, and he finished with 15 rebounds.

“Overall, it was a really fun game to be a part of, and both teams scrapped,” Rotz said. “Both teams competed, a very physical game which will help us make us stronger and tougher. We need it to be elite. Sheldon’s been elite. We’re close.”

Rotz said earlier in the week of Sheldon, “The competitive environment Joey creates there is amazing. Every time I watch them, it’s a no B.S., competitive, bulldog-type of effort. They get after it. Their effort level coupled with their athleticism and skill is daunting.”

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

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