SALIDA — D.J. Seeley felt it, and Gary Porter saw it while Seeley was warming up.
"He was making NBA-range 3-pointers, one after the other," said Porter, the coach of the Modesto Christian High boys basketball team. "Then he came back to the bench with that look. He was going to have a good night."
Seeley made a layup in the opening minutes, followed by a 3-pointer one minute later. He never stopped, scoring 43 points in the Crusaders' 87-72 victory over Kennedy of Richmond in their CIF Northern California Regional Division IV semifinal Thursday night at the Modesto Christian gymnasium.
His teammate, junior forward Reeves Nelson, scored 27 points as the Crusaders moved on to Saturday's Northern California championship at Folsom High.
Modesto Christian (29-4) plays St. Mary's of Albany (32-1) at 7 p.m. The top-seeded Panthers beat Colfax 70-50 in the other Division IV semifinal.
"I started feeling good before the game," said Seeley, who scored 27 points in the first half. "But the main thing is, we got the win. We're one step closer to the state championship game."
Like in their 90-63 victory over Palma of Salinas in Tuesday's first-round game, the Crusaders started well. They opened a 29-16 lead after the first quarter and never let their lead fall below five after that.
While Seeley was pouring in points from the opening jump, he was matched by Eagles 6-foot-7-inch guard Jonathan Williams, who scored 41 points. The players scored their points in different ways.
Seeley was hot from the outside, making four 3-pointers. When defenders began challenging him from beyond the 3-point arc, he drove inside.
The powerful Williams did his damage by driving past his defender into the paint and scoring with deft, left-handed scoop shots and layups.
"It was tough for us to counter both (Seeley) and (Nelson)," Williams said. "They did a really good job of moving the ball around and getting it to the open guy."
While Nelson and Seeley had their moments, it was Seeley's accuracy that made the difference.
"Kennedy didn't quit. They battled with us until the final buzzer," Porter said. "But you could tell D.J. was going to score just about every time he got the ball."
Saturday will mark the sixth consecutive NorCal championship game for Modesto Christian. The Crusaders won in 2003 and 2004, then lost to Branson of Ross the last three years. This season, Branson remains in Division V — where it's playing for another title — while MC moved up to Division IV.
Seeley, who transferred from Tokay this season, played in a Division I NorCal title game two years ago. The Tigers lost to De La Salle.
"But this feels more intense," he said. "I feel like I have more of a fire for this one."
He felt that fire Thursday night.