"Don't believe the hype."
I don't know how many times I heard that phrase shouted by one Burbank fan during the first half against Merced on Tuesday night.
It was an attempt to get under the skin of Merced star Allen Huddleston.
It didn't work.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
After Huddleston scored 14 points in the first half and caught fire in the third quarter, I think he finally believed the hype.
When Golden Valley took the floor against Sheldon, it was John Sykes' turn to be singled out by a Sheldon fan.
"Make him go left. He can't go left."
Sykes went left.
Using a crossover dribble, Sykes blew by two Sheldon defenders.
The Sheldon fan had to find something else to yell about.
Area fans that made the trip to the University of the Pacific saw two great performances from Huddleston and Sykes in the quarterfinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
They were the best two players at UOP on Tuesday night.
It wasn't even close.
Are we surprised?
We've seen Sykes and Huddleston do it all year. We've watched them the last three years.
But they definitely opened some eyes around the section. At times, both carried their team into today's semifinals.
Huddleston scored 37 points and came up big with 14 points in the third quarter to keep Merced in the game against Sacramento Burbank.
Sykes was brilliant against a bigger, taller, stronger Sheldon frontline.
His 26 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals only tell part of the story.
"I thought Allen was unbelievable the way he took over that game," Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter said. "I can't say enough about John.
"I admit I'm biased, but I love watching Allen play. I'm going to miss watching him play when he's gone."
I'm excited to see what will happen today. Could we possibly see a Merced-Golden Valley matchup in the section title game?
I remember former Sun-Star sports editor Steve Cameron asking me if he'd ever get to see one of our teams play at Arco Arena.
Four months after he retired, we've got two teams playing on the same night.
It's the first time Merced and Golden Valley have played at Arco on the same night since both schools won section titles in 1997.
What will it take for both teams to advance to Saturday?
Merced definitely has the toughest draw in No. 1 Folsom (28-1).
Folsom has great guard play and it runs its offense well. Very, very well.
For Merced to win, it's going to take another big night from Huddleston and new addition Brian Cooksey is going to have to play like he did in the second half against Burbank.
Beating Folsom is going to be tough, but not impossible.
To use a boxing analogy, Merced has a puncher's chance tonight.
Golden Valley also has a tough matchup against Elk Grove Franklin.
However, after knocking off Sheldon, I wouldn't count out Hunter's boys against anybody.
If Sykes can come up big again and Alex Fletcher, Donte Scott, Scott Livesay and GV's other sharpshooters catch fire, I expect Golden Valley to move on.
Let's hope they both win.
Merced-Golden Valley III at Arco...
I'd say that's worth the drive.
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at email@example.com.