Cortez: Repeat challenge for Modesto Christian’s girls will tougher in D2

jcortez@modbee.comApril 2, 2014 

The Stanislaus District Players of the Year for boys and girls basketball will be announced this weekend and that will put a pretty little bow on the 2014 basketball season for us here at The Modesto Bee.

And what a basketball season it was.

More than half of the district’s teams qualified for the playoffs, with eight teams reaching the semifinal round, three reaching the finals (both Modesto Christian squads and the Turlock Christian girls) and two winning section banners (MC’s boys and girls – the fifth double in school history).

But the fun didn’t stop there.

Seven teams advanced to the Northern California regionals, with both MC teams, the Patterson girls, and Central Catholic’s and Riverbank’s boys winning at least one game.

The Raiders advanced all the way to the NorCal final, only to lose 54-42 to St. Joseph (Alameda), a team they crushed by 16 earlier in the season. The Pilots went on to capture the state title, which may provide some solace for the Raiders, knowing they stood toe to toe with the state’s best and, if not for Jonathan Boddie’s pulled groin muscle, they may have duplicated the feat of Modesto Christian’s girls – who won it all.

The Crusaders overcame an 0-5 start to the season and numerous injuries to key players en route to the program’s first state championship.

Even though Modesto Christian figures to be even better next year, the challenge to repeat will be made more difficult since MC is moving into the Modesto Metro Conference next season – for basketball only – as part of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s realignment plan.

But that’s not the tough part. The road to the MMC title will be about as easy as was the road to the Trans-Valley League title this year. Things will get more difficult in the postseason because the Crusaders will be have to play in Division 2, as opposed to D3 this year.

You see, the MMC is classified as a Division 1 league, and Sac-Joaquin Section schools can only drop one notch below their league level for postseason play.

The same will be true for Central Catholic’s boys and girls teams. Both advanced to the NorCal tourney this year in Division 5. But since the Raiders are being shipped to the Valley Oak League – a Division 3 conference – they can only move down one notch for the playoffs.

It shouldn’t matter too much for Modesto Christian’s girls. That 0-5 start I mentioned before … those losses came against some of the best teams in the state: D1 state champ Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley), D1 SoCal runner-up Alemany (Mission Hills), D2 NorCal champ Archbishop Mitty (San Jose), and Open Division regional qualifers Bishop’s (La Jolla) and St. Mary’s (Stockton).

“If you look at all our preseason, we play anybody and everybody,” says MC coach Robb Spencer. “In the classroom and on the court, that’s what we’re about.”

Next season, MC will have to deal with Sacramento High, the two-time reigning section champ in Division 2 that moved up to play in the Open Division at regionals, McNair (Stockton), Del Oro (Loomis) and Mitty.

Or, should I say, they’ll have to deal with MC. ...

Another Sac-Joaquin Section rule that affects postseason placement is the “three-peat” rule. If a team wins three consecutive championships (all within the same division), then that team gets promoted the following year to the next highest division.

This could come into play soon for Central Catholic’s football team. The Raiders, who have not only won back-to-back section titles in Division 4, but also consecutive state championships, are heavy favorites to make it three in a row this fall. If they do secure the three-peat, they’ll get kicked up to D3 for future postseasons.

One ingredient to Central success these past few years has been strength and conditioning coach Les Bonsu, who owns and operates Bonsu Elite Athletics.

Bonsu, who works with athletes of all stripes, recently has served as strength coach for four league championship teams over the past three seasons.

He’s moving his operation from Bangs Avenue in Modesto to 3427 Railroad Avenue in Ceres, going from a facility of about 2,500 square feet to one exceeding 7,000 square feet.

“Size-wise, we have kind of grown out of our current location,” said Bonsu, who has trained such notable prep stars as Rey Vega, Ray Lomas, John Mundt, Matt Ringer and Hunter Petlansky of Central Catholic, Frank Ginda of Pacheco, and Patrick Green of Turlock High. “We’ve been looking for a larger spot for some time.”

The new facility will have its grand opening on Saturday. ...

The Sac-Joaquin Section announced earlier this week that it will award more than $35,000 to the 51 winners of the A. Dale Lacky/CSEA Scholarships for outstanding athletic performance, community service and academic excellence during their four years in high school.

The scholarship committee has selected four boys and four girls as the recipients of $1,000 scholarships. The remaining nominees have been awarded $600.

The top two honorees – Vacaville Christian’s Andrew Grabowski and Vacaville’s Breanna Seawell – have been awarded the Clarke Coover Scholarship (named after the former section commissioner) and will receive an additional $1,500.

The winners will recognized at the section’s breakfast awards ceremony, which will be held this morning at 9 a.m. in Lodi.

Stanislaus District student-athletes who received $1,000 scholarships are: Gurleen Chahal (Livingston), Audre De Bard (Golden Valley), Kobie Pettis (Argonaut), Kevin Holtberg (Linden) and Hans van Warmerdam (Atwater). Winners of a $600 scholarship are: Anna Cardenas (Sierra), Maggie Casteel (Escalon), Shea Williams (Mariposa), Michala Wyrsch (Gregori), Derek Breshears (Enochs), Steven Grolle (Sonora), Ben Hood (Escalon), Ryan Martinez (Le Grand) and Spencer Stark (Central Catholic).

For complete student-athlete bios, click here.

Bee staff writer Joe Cortez can be reached at or (209) 578-2380. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeePreps.

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