RIVERBANK Now that Gary Porter and Richard Midgley have been co-coaches for two Trans-Valley League championship seasons at Modesto Christian, how do they divvy-up the titles?
“Is it a half for each of us?,” wondered Midgley. “I’m going to claim two.”
There’s no need to split anything after the Crusaders claimed their eighth straight TVL crown with an 84-64 victory at Riverbank.
Mason Washington erupted for 15 of his game-high 28 points in the third quarter, and Modesto Christian needed that output to hold off a Bruins’ team that just never gave up.
And yes, Riverbank had the opportunity to hang heads and walk away in the game’s opening minutes.
Hoping for a quick start, the Bruins fell behind 10-0 before three minutes had elapsed, then it really got bad when senior leader Rolaun Dunham collapsed to the floor after pulling up on a drive with 4:31 left in the first quarter.
The Stanislaus District’s leading scorer had to be helped off the court and went directly to the locker room. He returned to the bench with his foot immersed in an ice bucket for the rest of the game.
“He tweaked his Achilles against Patterson (on Tuesday) and we held him out of practice for two days,” said Riverbank coach Jeff Jennings. “He said he felt good today and we had it taped. We’re hoping it’s more of an ankle than his achilles, but we don’t know.”
Dunham’s injury cast a pall over the game, which was watched by a large crowd that included MC alums Chuck Hayes of the Toronto Raptors and Reeves Nelson, currently playing international ball with playing rights under control of the Philadelphia 76ers.
It was that big of a game for both teams. The Crusaders (18-8 overall, 11-0 in the TVL) will be favored to sucessfully defend their Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 title. Riverbank (20-3, 9-2) will be among the favorites in Division 4 and should earn a top-4 seed when the pairings are announced on Wednesday.
Modesto Christian put its game plan on display very early. With a distinct height advantage at every position, the Crusaders opened by going inside to center Anthony Townes, who drew three fouls from the Bruins in the opening 50 seconds.
“We always try to go inside out,” Midgley said. “A lot of our sets are run for a post touch, and like any good team you want to establish the post game first and try to get the other team in foul trouble.”
What it did was force Riverbank into a zone, and it worked for a while, even without Dunham’s leadership and scoring. After falling behind by 10 points in a flash, the Bruins played even with MC into the third quarter, where they trailed 48-39 with 5:30 remaining.
That’s when Washington went to work. The Crusaders’ lone senior starter scored 11 points in a 13-0 Modesto Christian run, capping the spurt with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 61-39 lead.
“I wasn’t real happy with my first half, so I decided to come out and step up and be aggressive,” Washington said.
Townes finished with 14 points, while Oman Edobor added 12 points and fellow Canadian Kevin Hamlet added 10 for MC. The Bruins maintained their trademark balance with Reilly Nabors scoring 14, Ylii Lopez 12 and Curtis Porter and Vincent Meras 11 apiece.
Other than the 10-0 run to start the game and the 13-0 Washington-led spurt, Riverbank held its own. Of course, that’s like saying your roof wouldn’t have caved-in if not for the meteor, because it’s MC’s game to be overpowering in decisive spurts.
“Riverbank doesn’t quit, and that’s a tribute to Jeff,” Porter said. “It is good for us to play teams like this so we keep working. Riverbank will do fine in the playoffs, and so will we.”
Porter not only said that on the court, but he visited the Riverbank locker room after the game to convey that same message in the final league meeting between the teams before MC heads to the Modesto Metro Conference.
“It was nice that Coach Porter came in and talked to the guys,” Jennings said. “It was very classy on his part. People respect our kids and how hard they play, and that’s always nice.”