SALIDA — In the moments just after Modesto Christian's 58-16 victory Wednesday over Manteca, Sacramento Kings forward Chuck Hayes on hand to watch his alma mater play exchanged pleasantries with his old coach, Gary Porter.
After shaking Porter's hand and starting to leave, Hayes turned back around and said, "I'll see you again at NorCals."
That's not to say Hayes is guaranteeing anything, or that he doesn't think much of the others seven teams left in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 boys basketball bracket. It's just that, well, Hayes likes what he sees.
"I'm a big fan of this team," said Hayes, relaxing in sweats, a black T-shirt and a Toronto Blue Jays cap one night after facing the San Antonio Spurs at Sleep Train Arena. "I've gotten to see them two years now, and they just keep getting better."
The top-seeded Crusaders (25-3) opened their annual playoff march by scoring the game's first 14 points Raymond Bowles (15 points) had six during the run and led 18-2 at the end of the first quarter.
Despite the big lead, MC did a good job of staying focused. The Crusaders opened the second stanza on a 13-3 run with Bowles again contributing six during the surge and continued to play stifling defense.
"We break a season into three seasons within a season the preseason, then league, then playoffs," said Porter, celebrating his 37th wedding anniversary on Wednesday. "That's why we pushed it a little bit tonight. We want them to stay focused and stay ready for these (playoff) games."
Manteca did an adequate job of handling MC's press, but after crossing midcourt and setting up its offense, the Crusaders' athleticism and length made it nearly impossible for the Buffs to get the ball inside.
"Defensively, it seemed like they cranked it up a little more tonight," said Manteca coach David Asuncion, whose team finishes the season 14-13. "And that's impossible to emulate in practice."
Certainly, there's no shame in a 16-seed losing to a team of Modesto Christian's caliber.
"We told them there's no reason to hang their heads," Asuncion said. "We have a lot to learn and a lot of time to get better. You don't rate your season off one game."
Modesto Christian next will host Fairfield on Friday at 7 p.m. The Falcons defeated Foothill of Sacramento 68-55.
As for Porter's 37th anniversary? Well, last week's outbracket games created a window of opportunity for Porter and his wife, Pam, to get away for a few days a rarity for somebody who coaches a team that plays its most important games in the latter part of February each year.
So, Mrs. Porter, just how many anniversaries have you celebrated on hard, wooden benches in drafty gymnasiums?
"Probably ..." pondered Pam Porter, "most of them."
Sac-Joaquin SectionBasketball Playoffs
Golden Valley 50, Oak Ridge 49
Franklin (EG) 67, Turlock 65
Burbank 76, Gregori 54
Cosumnes Oaks 89,Buhach Colony 88
Modesto Christian 58, Manteca 16
Sierra 66, Ceres 25
Patterson 68, Vanden 61
Casa Roble 80, East Union 60
Riverbank 83, Waterford 46
Summerville 70, Delhi 33
Colfax 75, Hughson 48
West Campus 73, Escalon 63
Liberty Ranch 75, Mariposa 48
Encina 75, Ripon 60
Turlock Christian 70, Lodi Academy 53
Bethel at Golden Valley
Fairfield at Modesto Christian, Placer at Sierra, Patterson at Casa Roble
Bret Harte at Riverbank, Encina at Summerville
Buckingham Charter at Central Catholic, Delta Charter at Ripon Christian
Turlock Christian at Faith Christian
Ripon 54, Bret Harte 30
Florin at Gregori
Modesto Christian at Rio Americano
Patterson at Placer
Manteca at Vanden
Ripon at Argonaut
Woodland Christian at Ripon Christian
Foresthill at Turlock Christian
Central Catholic at Brookside Christian