Herbie Berry had to take a moment to collect himself and catch his breath.
The Sheldon High School football coach who doubles as the school’s basketball public address voice said during a late timeout Friday night, “Man, my heart is pounding!”
In other words, say hello to your typical Sheldon vs. Jesuit basketball tilt. In recent years, such a meeting of rivals played out with plenty at stake, be it a league championship, a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I banner or, in 2012, for Northern California honors.
This time, it was a Delta League meeting at Sheldon, a frenetic and fun affair that was tied late before the Huskies, ranked fourth by The Bee, pulled away from the No. 14 Marauders for a satisfying, if exhausting, 61-55 victory.
Sheldon (8-3, 4-0) has won seven consecutive games, thanks to a nice blend of sharing the ball on offense and defending with pride and purpose. This isn’t the tallest Huskies team on record, but it is typically tenacious and tough, and it can shoot and run.
The contributions came from all over as coach Joey Rollings had eight players score. If third-year varsity guard Devin Greene is the leader and star, then everyone else stands in as key cogs in the machine, with effort the defining theme.
Junior forward Anthony Cook had a career night – going for 20 points, 16 in the second half – on an array of shots in the lane or on putbacks. Not bad for a young man who missed last season with an ACL injury.
“He’s our inside guy, our rebounder, our muscle,” Rollings said. “We started slow shooting (missing 10 shots to open the game), but someone always picks up the slack. We have a lot of guys who do that.”
Another unsung performer was sophomore guard Drew Cobb, who had the task of checking one of the region’s most dynamic talents. Jesuit senior guard Isaiah Bailey has a linebacker body and Globetrotter skills, able to slither down the lane or baseline or hit from all over. He scored 18 points but had just one field goal in the fourth quarter.
Bailey tied it 55-55 on a baseline move with 2:06 to go, but the Marauders would get no more as Sheldon’s Blake Mason scored on a putback, Cobb made two free throws, and Isaiah Brooks scored on a fastbreak as time expired. Malik Duffy had 18 points for Jesuit (9-7, 2-2), hitting from three-point range and inside. But the focus was Bailey.
“I take pride in playing defense,” Cobb said. “Bailey is tough. He’s strong, quick, can use both hands, tough to guard.”
Cobb showed sportsmanship late in the second quarter. Bailey got tangled with Cobb near midcourt and grabbed his left knee, writhing in pain, and Cobb immediately went over to offer support and words of encouragement. Bailey was OK, though sore later.
“I wanted to make sure everything was fine,” Cobb said. “We’re competitive, but we can be classy, too.”
Bailey appreciated the gesture and the energy as the Sheldon rooting section and band made for an energized atmosphere. He also heaped credit on Sheldon’s overall defense.
“It was fun, and that game had a playoff intensity to it,” Bailey said. “Sheldon did a great job of giving no airspace and not letting us get to our spots easily. (Cobb) is a tough defender. They made the gritty plays at the end.”
Brooks had 10 points for Sheldon and Matt Manning four, well below his average, but the junior forward pulled down nine rebounds and blocked two shots. Guard Jeremy Every and forwards Joseph Irving and Vavanjot Riar also made plays.
“We hustle, and we grind it out,” Rollings said. “And we’re getting better.”
More challenges loom. Sheldon plays at Edison of Fresno on Saturday night and takes on Bee No. 12 Grant and No. 7 Pleasant Grove in Delta action next week.