SALIDA — You could tell what kind of game was in store during the first 20 seconds of Thursday night’s Trans-Valley League girls basketball showdown between Riverbank and Modesto Christian.
Crusaders senior Jasmine Hampton, who has missed most of this season with an ankle injury, was allowed to score the first basket of the night – uncontested – on Senior Night.
MC controlled the opening tip and flipped the ball to the 5-foot-10 forward, who banked it neatly off the glass for a 2-0 lead.
“I wanted Jasmine to be able to remember something from her Senior Night – scoring the first basket of the game,” said Crusaders coach Robb Spencer, whose team cruised to a 69-36 victory and wrapped up the outright TVL title.
Per the gentlemen’s agreement between Spencer and Bruins coach Lupe Galindo, MC would return the favor and let Riverbank even the score. Then it would be time to get down to business.
Only, when the Bruins moved in for their uncontested layup, they missed. Then missed again. And again, and once more before finally converting on the fifth attempt.
Yes, that pretty much set the tone in this lopsided affair.
Modesto Christian led 29-3 after one quarter – the Bruins (21-3, 9-2 TVL) had just the gimme field goal and a free throw – and from there Spencer could enjoy the remainder of his 42nd birthday.
“I really expected this game to be more competitive,” said Galindo, whose team trailed the Crusaders (18-8, 11-0) by just three points at halftime of their first league meeting on Jan. 21 in Riverbank. “We needed to be on our A game tonight – above our A game, actually – if we wanted to play more competitively.”
Riverbank’s Luu sisters combined for 80 percent of the team’s scoring, with senior center Janelle totaling 17 and junior point guard Olivia 12.
Hampton, Viviana Vasquez and Lexi Tubbs were the three seniors honored by the school Thursday. And even though the score quickly got out of hand, Tubbs said this game served a purpose.
“We kept our press on a little longer tonight,” said Tubbs, who led all scorers with 22 points despite battling the flu. “That seems kinda mean, but we had to do it a little longer. It’s a totally different mindset going from league to playoffs.”
The Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs begin in one week and this isn’t the time to worry about an opponents’ feelings.
“That’s what we talked about,” said Spencer. “It’s time to go all out. We can’t worry about the score, we have to worry about us. In the playoffs, you either get revved up or you’re going home.”
The victory kept Spencer unbeaten in games played on Feb. 13.
“I’m 99.9 percent sure I’ve never lost on my birthday, since my birthday comes late in the league season.”
Surely, he’d remember a loss on his special day.
“Yes, I would,” said Spencer. “And so would my team.”