OAKLAND — It seems like just half an hour ago, Gary Porter was taking over as head coach of the Modesto Christian boys basketball program.
“It really does,” said Porter, after his fifth-seeded Crusaders (24-9) fell 74-51 to No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd in the semifinals of the CIF Northern California Open Division regional at Laney College, bringing a close to the most successful coaching career in Stanislaus District history. “I remember so vividly that first year.
“This was never something I really sought to do, I was just filling in. Really, it went so fast, and you don’t have time to stop and think about all you’ve done.”
All Porter has done is win 509 games, against 123 losses (.805 winning percentage) with 16 section championships and a pair of state titles since taking the job on a one-year basis back in 1996.
Not bad for a guy who was just filling in.
However, none of the Crusaders’ past glories could help the current squad. It was clear they were outmatched from the opening tip.
Bishop O’Dowd (27-4) jumped out to an 8-0 lead less than three minutes into the game and led 17-5 after one quarter. The Crusaders never would be within single digits again.
Ivan Rabb, the Dragons’ 6-10 junior center, had eight points, three rebounds and a block in the opening stanza. More than that, he seemed to be in the back of the mind of each MC player on the floor.
“He’s so long and he can jump, too,” said 6-foot-5 junior forward Kevin Hamlet, who led the Crusaders with 19 points. “You have to think about him all the time.
“He’s really a great player.”
Considered the best junior in the nation, Rabb finished the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds. And he was keenly aware that Modesto Christian was the team that ended his sophomore campaign.
“Definitely,” replied Rabb when asked if he took extra satisfaction in knocking the Crusaders from the playoffs. “We wanted to put it on them early and we made it a point to go hard.
“I took it personally.”
Rabb did, however, pay Modesto Christian a compliment, saying, “MC is the hardest doubling team we’ve faced. I didn’t do too well playing out of the double team the first time we played.”
The Crusaders lost 70-52 in their first meeting with the Dragons on Feb. 8 at O’Dowd High School. Even though MC lost that game, it did some things that concerned Dragons coach Lou Richie.
“We really prepared for their double-team,” said Richie. “And we did a better job of rebounding. In that first game, 75 percent of their points came off rebounds.”
O’Dowd, which drew a first-round bye, hadn’t played since beating El Cerrito 89-69 in the North Coast Section final (MC beat El Cerrito 73-64 on Feb. 1 in Salida). Conversely, Modesto Christian was in a Pier 9 brawl just four days ago, beating Newark Memorial 56-55 on the road.
“We really prepared well and used all (10) days,” said Richie. “They just had two days (of prep). Plus, Mason (Washington) was banged up. We used those things to our advantage.”
Washington, the lone senior among MC’s starting five, sprained his ankle in the third quarter against Newark Memorial. He was limited to eight points.
After the game, Modesto Christian players were first to file out of their locker room; O’Dowd players were getting updates on the other semifinal between No. 4 Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) and No. 2 Capital Christian (Sacramento) – CC won 70-57, setting up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Porter was positioned in a hallway, conducting an interview, as the O’Dowd coaches filed past.
“Great career,” said one assistant, stopping to shake Porter’s hand. Porter offered well-wishes for Saturday’s NorCal final.
Richie was the last to leave the Dragons’ locker room. He stopped to embrace the MC coach.
“Mr. Porter,” said Richie, “you’re incredible.”