Two years ago to the night, Tashawn Mabry lay in agony on the Modesto Junior College Gym court.
At one moment, Mabry pivoted from offense to defense, a routine move not unlike breathing for a basketball player. A micro-second later, the career of the heralded prospect from North Carolina was stalled like traffic at rush hour.
Mabry remembered the pain. And the seemingly forever rehab. And what he did about it two years later at the same MJC Tournament.
The 6-foot-7 Mabry personally escorted the Pirates into tonight's semifinals with 37 points to beat Los Medanos 93-76 Thursday night. It was the performance about which he dreamed during all those lonely nights so far from home.
"I haven't felt like that in a long time," Mabry said, his smile clearly showing his emotion. "It took a lot of mental focus. When I couldn't walk, I just sat in the chair and practiced the release of my shot."
The smooth lefty and his teammates (6-2) will return to their hardwood tonight at 8 o'clock against the winner of Thursday night's late game between Cosumnes River and top-ranked City College of San Francisco.
Modesto wouldn't mind an early-season test against the powerful Rams. The Pirates' most athletic team in years acted like frisky colts against Los Medanos (6-2) racing down the floor, tossing more rim-high passes than they could finish, eager to show their stuff.
Brogan prodded them into action after a going through-the-motions win over the Simpson University junior varsity in the first round.
"Amazing things happen when you play hard," Brogan said. "These are athletes who feel like they can do those things. That's what they can do."
Mabry illustrated a better arc to his shot, improved ball-handling and upgraded all-around skills. He drilled three straight perimeter shots a pair of triples and an 18-footer as Modesto pulled away during the second half. He more than offset a foul-plagued night by forward Brenden Evans (13 points). Ricky Inderbitzin came off the bench for 11 points and Mike Hill had 10.
Both of Los Medanos' losses came at MJC's hands.
LASSEN 82, CHABOT 74 Devin Aye, the Lassen coach, and his father, Chabot's Denny Aye, shook hands warmly at game's end. In what was believed to be the first father-son matchup in tournament history, the son prevailed over his dad.
Denny and Wendy Aye raised their three sons including Imperial Valley coach Tyson Aye and Chabot assistant Dion Aye, in Sonora while Denny coached the Columbia Claim Jumpers.
"In all honesty, it felt like just another game until 15 minutes before tipoff. Then it sunk in," Devin said. "I made sure not to talk any smack before the game. Now I'm free to talk at Christmas."
Devin's Cougars (7-3) started quickly, led by 13 at halftime and later withstood two concerted counterattacks by Chabot (5-4). The Gladiators pulled to within three points early in the second half and in the final minutes trailed by only five. Devin Bey with 19 points, Lawrence Melton and Garrick Wilson with 18 apiece paced the victors, who hit 17 of 21 free throws.
Damarius Jones topped Chabot with 19 points.
"It was not like checkers when he was 5. I didn't let him win this time," Denny Aye said. "His team played extremely well. But losing is not fun."
FRESNO 95, CUESTA 77 Cuesta and Fresno combined for 26 3-pointers, but the defending state and MJC champions accounted for 14. Better still for the No.
Cuesta (7-4) countered in the second half and chopped the deficit to only seven points with nine minutes left. The Cougars from San Luis Obispo, coached by former European pro Rusty Blair, are hard to miss with eight international players, all of them wearing the flag of their respective countries on their warm-ups.
Plamen Hristov, from Bulgaria, heated up in the second half en route to 20 points. Fresno rode the fast start by Thomas Jordan with 22 points and Olajuwon Garner with 18. The duo up picked 10 of the Rams triples.
YUBA 78, MERCED 56 The Blue Devils (0-9) threatened to end their winless streak by jumping to an early 14-point lead before the 49ers (3-4) responded with a 24-5 run before halftime. \
The 49ers recovered from their tough overtime loss to Cosumnes River via a big effort from 6-7 forward Jeremy Bubier (21 points).
Gurpreet Sangha (15 points) and LeBrandon Williams (13) drained a trio of 3s apiece for Merced.
REEDLEY 76, SIMPSON JV 57 The Tigers (3-2) put 12 into the scoring column to beat the Simpson junior varsity. Sam Siler of Simpson was the games leading scorer with 18 points.
MENDOCINO 84, SACRAMENTO 83 Mendocinos Kevin Charles sliced between two defenders along the baseline and finished softly off the glass with 1 second left to win for Mendocino (5-2). Charles, a 6-4 guard from Brooklyn, N.Y., closed with 29 points.
Sacramento (3-4), which suffered two tough losses here, rallied from an 8-point deficit to a 1-point lead in the final three minutes. K.J. Duronslet sank two free throws to put the Panthers in front with 11.2 seconds to go.
CHAFFEY 86, IMPERIAL VALLEY 68 Chaffey (5-4) bounced back from its nasty loss to Fresno by pulling away from Imperial Valley (3-7) early in the second half. Tyson Ayes Arabs went home 0-2 from Modesto.
Chaffey netted 13s, six by Justin Long (21 points), one of the tournaments most skilled guards. LaSalle Wright led IVC with 20 points.
CCSF 96, COSUMNES RIVER 67 The Rams (9-0) scored the games first 17 points and toyed with a Cosumnes River team (5-3) coming off the title of its own tournament.
Twelve CCSF players scored, led by guard Dulani Robinson with 17 points. Shauwn Brooks was the leading scorer for the Hawks with 13 points.