MODESTO — To reach the final game of the 75th Modesto Junior College Tournament, the MJC mens' basketball team was asked to stun California's top-ranked team.
City College of San Francisco did not follow the home team's script.
The Rams demonstrated their dominance from the opening tip Friday night in a ringing 83-67 victory at MJC Gym. Modesto is relegated to tonight's third-place game while CCSF (10-0) advances to the championship game against surprising Lassen of Susanville.
Modesto's matchup issues emerged almost immediately. The Pirates' sturdy forward Brenden Evans picked up two fouls barely a minute into the game. The Rams exploited their inside advantage with 6-foot-7 Shawn Smith (21 points), who posted up shorter Pirates. Further complicating matters for Modesto was 6-10 Gabriel Aguirre (11 points).
Clearly rattled, Modesto (6-3) trailed 38-17 with 5:30 left in the first half. The Pirates finally responded with a good effort off the bench by guard Kyle Seever (11 points). A triple by 6-7 Tashawn Mabry closed the gap to 48-35 at the half.
The Pirates encouraged a partisan crowd early in the second half and drew to within 60-51. Then came a play that illustrated why CCSF is unbeaten.
Modesto thought it had beaten the Rams' press and attacked the basket. But within an eye-blink, CCSF knocked the ball loose and parlayed the turnover into a slam dunk by Shawn Smith. Only Seever scored for the Pirates over the next five minutes as San Francisco pulled away.
"At times, it looked like we weren't sure we should be on the floor with them. At other times, it did," MJC coach Paul Brogan said. "I know this team is far away from being at its best."
Seever and fellow guards Evan Grimes and Mike Hill (11 points apiece) reminded Modesto that a long season lay ahead.
"They (San Francisco) had talent everywhere. They were super-athletic," Seever said. "If you didn't score, they're on the break."
At least Modesto learned, against a state power, where it stood. Knowledge is power, it's said, and the Pirates will learn more about themselves tonight against Fresno.
"I believe I have a team that can win the Big 8 (Conference)," Brogan said, "but only if we improve."
LASSEN 102, FRESNO 91 (2OT) Lassen scored the last 10 points of regulation and later clinched the win with an amazing 21-point blitz in the second overtime. The Cougars' Australia product Justin McBride, the only returner from last year's team, netted a 3-pointer with 15.4 seconds left in regulation for the tie.
It was an emphatic win for Lassen (8-3) over Fresno, the reigning MJC and state champion and winner of this event five of the last six years. Coach Devin Aye, the son of Chabot coach Denny Aye, takes his team into the title game in his first season as coach.
"I've got some clutch players," Aye said. "When it comes to not cracking and being mentally tough, we're pretty good. And we're not as good as we can be."
Lassen dodged 20 3-pointers on Fresno, 11 of them by guard Olajuwon Garner (33 points). But the Cougars kept stride with the Rams' frenetic fast-forward style with guards Sammy Allen Jr. (19 points) and Devin Bey (18). Charles Jackson, Lassen's 6-8 post, finished with 18.
Lassen ripped Fresno for the first nine points of the second OT on a 15-footer by Bey, a spinning drive and 3-point play by Lawrence Melton (12 points), a drive by Allen and a dunk by Jackson. Their press wasnt bothering us by then, Aye said. We were used to it.
Fresno (9-3) forced a second overtime with a remarkable inbounds play. The Rams Colton Hafey, from half-court, tossed toward the rim to Alex Perez who in midair guided it off the glass and in with 1.1 seconds left.
CUESTA 85, CHABOT 73 Plamen Hristov's back-to-back 3s keyed a second-half run that erased a 5-point Chabot lead with 11:15 left. Hristov finished with 19 for Cuesta (8-4), and guard Kenny Robinson had 15. Chabot (5-5) was led by Damarius Jones with 23.
LOS MEDANOS 93, COSUMNES RIVER 79 Los Medanos guard Nick Blount scored 45 points, including 11 triples, as the Mustangs from Pittsburg (7-2) raced by the Hawks (5-4) in the second half. Los Medanos has poured in 38 3s, 16 to beat Cosumnes River, during its first three games.
CHAFFEY 98, MENDOCINO 52 Chaffey of Rancho Cucamonga (6-4), which extended Fresno to the final seconds in the first round, continued its roll through the consolation bracket. Point guard Justin Long connected for 15 points for the Panthers, who were extremely good from the free-throw line (30 of 34).
YUBA 80, REEDLEY 67 Yuba (4-4) reached the consolation final by hitting 21 free throws in the second half. Reedley (3-3) returns to MJC on Thursday night.
75th MJC Tournament
Lassen 102, Fresno 91 (2OT)
CCSF 83, Modesto JC 67
Lassen vs. CCSF, 7 p.m.
MJC vs. Fresno, 5 p.m.
Los Medanos vs. Cuesta, 3 p.m.
Yuba vs. Chaffey, 1 p.m.