Turlock strong in loss

ELK GROVE -- Doug Cornfoot laid down the challenge early in the second half, after Sheldon High's powerful Darius Nelson had muscled and maneuvered his way for yet another short-range jumper.

"Sheldon was getting physical and during the timeout I told our kids that we had to be physical right back," Turlock's coach said. "We got right up on them and responded the way I wanted us to."

Turlock's willingness to go chest-to-chest with the taller Huskies kept the score close, but not close enough to win Friday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff opener.

Nelson, a 6-foot-5-inch sophomore whose quickness and girth make him tough to defend, scored 26 points and his Huskies used a fourth-quarter spurt to pull away from Turlock for an 82-72 win.

"I'll use my size to back in a defender, then when I feel the direction he's leaning, I spin the other way," Nelson said.. "People think I'm slow, but I have a quick first step."

It wasn't until the Bulldogs began pushing back, with the husky 6-4 duo of Eric Wetzel and Mason Russell that Nelson showed signs of slowing.

By that time, though, Turlock trailed by 10. The gap remained about 10 points until the Huskies used a 12-4 run midway through the fourth quarter to grab a 76-60 lead.

"The refs are going to call it loose in the playoffs, and you have to push back when someone pushes you," said 6-4 junior point guard Travis Souza, whose 27-point effort included six 3-pointers. "I played with Darius and Ramos during the summer, so I knew the type of game they'd play."

Turlock led 20-19 after a quarter, but had a short span in the second quarter when it struggled to adjust to Sheldon's combination of aggression and quickness inside.

Turlock tried bounce passes inside, effective against Central California Conference foes, but the Huskies snatched them up and headed the other way for layups.

Sheldon's ability to convert those turnovers into breakaway baskets triggered a 12-2 run to open the second quarter. Nelson and Jackson each hit treys during the run.

Sheldon could never build a comfortable lead, however.

Just as Turlock had weathered Sheldon's game-opening 11-3 run, it survived the second-quarter spurt. Jeffrey Severson's short jumper and Shane Kumar's trey kept Turlock within striking distance.

When Robert Mendes turned a steal into a layup with 2 seconds left, it put Turlock within 40-33 at halftime.

The loss ends Turlock's season, but Cornfoot says there is plenty of promise for next year's squad. Souza and Wetzel (15 points) were Turlock's top scorers this year, and combined with sophomore Anthony Hubbard, the trio averaged 46 points a game.

"We have three or four kids coming up who will step in," Cornfoot said. "We'll be looking forward to next year."

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