SALIDA — They came to their home gym Saturday night looking for a victory they would remember for a long time.
Instead, the Modesto Christian High boys basketball team had to settle for a loss that's going to be very hard to forget.
The Crusaders may have been flat, or they may have just been overwhelmed by a very talented El Camino Real team, which slashed and burned its way to a 90-65 victory in the finals of the 13th annual Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic.
Tournament MVP Julian Richardson, a junior small forward and the son of former UCLA star and NBA journeyman Pooh Richardson, lit up the Crusaders and the capacity crowd for 30 points, including 16 in a second-quarter surge that gave the Conquistadors of Woodland Hills (13-2) a wave of momentum they would ride to the end of the game.
MC (10-2) came out a little bit nervous, but used a 7-0 run to take a 17-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. They traded baskets with El Camino Real through the middle of the second quarter, and had a 30-26 lead when Anthony Townes scored on a putback with 3:19 left.
That was somehow the signal for the Conquistadors to, well, start conquering, and they seemed to have a willing victim in the Crusaders.
"We came out well and were executing our game plan, especially on defense," said MC co-head coach Richard Midgley. "But we started missing free throws, which hurt our momentum, and it snowballed. It got bad real quick and we couldn't get out of it."
Through the first three games of the tournament Modesto Christian had allowed as much as a five-point run by the opposition on only two occasions.
But El Camino Real closed the first half on a 13-0 run, aided by five straight misses at the free-throw line by the Crusaders, then opened the second half on an 11-2 run broken only by Townes' tip-in.
MC, which never got going offensively from the perimeter, continued to attack the basket but at one point missed 10 straight free throws.
Richardson's fast-break basket closed the run and gave El Camino Real a 50-32 lead with 4:27 left in the third quarter, but he was just getting going.
With the Conquistadors having opened a 21-point cushion, 56-35, which stunned a now-silent crowd, Richardson gave them something to cheer about by drilling three straight 3-pointers.
By the time the third quarter was over, Richardson had completed his scoring and Modesto Christian, a team that is stressing a hardcore defensive mentality more this year than ever before, had seen a team come into its gym and score 55 points over two quarters.
"We played an awful lot of 1-on-1 basketball, even at the start of the game," said co-coach Gary Porter. "We missed those free throws (MC finished 13 of 26 at the line) and then, dribble, dribble, dribble. Tonight exposed some things we need to work on, but we'll get there."
Michael Thomas added 15 points, Maleke Haynes had 12 and Kelton Conway 11 for the Conquistadors, a Division 2 team from the Los Angeles City Section.
Raymond Bowles led the Crusaders with 18 points, and Townes had 15. T.J. Wallace, who led Modesto Christian in scoring and had done so with ease over his first two games in the tournament, was held to nine points.
TURLOCK 58, CLOVIS EAST 39 Darren Trainor had eight of his team-high 11 points in the second quarter as the Bulldogs (9-7) rolled to a 30-11 halftime lead. Dashawn Holcombe added 10 for Turlock, which returns to action Friday at home against Laguna Creek of Elk Grove.
HORIZON 71, RIPON 55 The Panthers from San Diego put on the best shooting display of the tournament, connecting on 14 of 34 3-pointers to pull away from the Indians (3-9). Junior Micah Goeglein hit six 3s and Cody Underwood had five for Horizon.
Derek Hickman scored 13 points to lead Ripon, while Kyle Wengel swished four 3-pointers and finished with 12 points. The Indians play at Downey on Wednesday, then open Trans-Valley League play Friday at Escalon.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2150.