SALIDA — Lexi Tubbs and her Modesto Christian High teammates were in no hurry to get to the locker room at halftime.
Sure, they had an eight-point lead on Vista del Lago, but they hadn’t played well. They knew they were about to hear about it from coach Robb Spencer.
“We sure did, and we deserved it,” said Tubbs, who along with her teammates came alive in the second half to post a 65-33 victory in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 quarterfinal game Thursday night.
“We had awesome practices and I think we looked it up and saw that this team just won a game by three points against a team we killed,” Tubbs said. “We might have come in looking ahead at playing at Arco (Sleep Train Arena), so we needed to just slow things down and not take anything or anybody for granted.”
As far as the section playoffs are concerned, the quarterfinals are the big round for all elite teams. Every girls squad that won Thursday and every boys team winning tonight in divisions 1-5 are guaranteed spots in the NorCal regional playoffs.
The Crusaders (21-8) will take their No. 2 seed into Tuesday’s section semifinal round game against Patterson at Cosumnes River College. The pairing guarantees a Stanislaus District presence in the section final at Sleep Train Arena next Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Modesto Christian never was in danger of falling to the Eagles (20-9) despite shooting a woeful 8-for-41 from the floor in the first 16 minutes. While the Crusaders were missing shots, Vista del Lago was having trouble getting shots, committing 18 first-half turnovers and 33 for the game.
“It’s sad when you have all this talent and you come out sleeping,” Spencer said. “How do you shoot like that in your own gym – layups and open 3s and all the stuff we work on every day? It makes it very difficult when you can’t hit a layup or a wide-open shot that you work to get.”
The game would have been much closer at the half, but the Eagles were 2 of 6 at the foul line through two quarters and 3-for-14 for the game.
It did seem an inevitability that MC would get it going in the second half, and some of the responsibility for lighting that fuse fell to Tubbs, one of only two senior starters.
“It is my job to help get the younger players going, but after the first half I had I would have felt like a hypocrite to tell them to come on and get going,” said Tubbs, who will be attending Northwest Nazarene University in the fall. “We all kind of help each other out in that way.”
The Crusaders clicked into gear in the third quarter, using their defense to fuel the offense and hitting the shots they missed in the opening half. Tubbs had eight third-quarter points while Stephanie Moore and Ashley Lucas added six apiece in a 26-point uprising.
The young Eagles, visibly frustrated at times, scored only four points in the final 10 minutes as MC pulled away.
Tubbs finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, Moore 14 points and 10 rebounds, Lucas 11 points and six assists, and Viviana Vasquez added 10 points and nine rebounds.
The final score was eerily close to last year’s first-round victory over Vista del Lago, a 66-29 MC win. But the score belied the performance, and the Crusaders know this might be the last time they can get away with a poor first-half performance.
“You need to be playing well at this time of the year because the competition is only going to get stiffer,” Spencer said.
“If we come out like this next week, well, we’d still get to play in the NorCal, but we’ll be on the road. We want to win two more next week so we can get another home game.”