In 2013, the first year of regional Open Division playoffs, Modesto Christian’s boys grabbed a No. 6 seed, went on the road and dominated Bishop O’Dowd 57-42 at Chabot College.
Last year, the Crusaders were seeded No. 5 and again were sent on the road, where they beat Newark Memorial 56-55.
This season, Modesto Christian took its résumé into the seeding meeting – a 28-3 record with no losses outside of the top 13 teams in the state, a 17th Sac-Joaquin Section title and the first in Division II – and emerged with a No. 7 seed.
The initial reaction by the Crusaders was a moment of shock. Then, they looked at the bracket and liked what they saw, starting with Friday night’s game in Danville against No. 2 Monte Vista.
While being a No. 7 guarantees no chance of hosting a regional playoff game, it also means MC is on the other side of the draw from Bishop O’Dowd – clearly the top team in Northern California.
“I wasn’t expecting a home game because we lost to Moreau and El Cerrito, plus we have experience with how this thing works,” said Crusaders coach Richard Midgley. “I knew people were high on Monte Vista and Bishop O’Dowd. But seeing the 7, I was happy at the matchups. First I noticed that we were on the opposite side of the bracket from O’Dowd. Right now, O’Dowd has put themselves in a position where they’re ahead of the rest, and seeds 2 through 7 are tossups.”
Monte Vista (27-4) brings a program very familiar to the Crusaders and their fans. Last season’s Mustangs team, en route to a 32-1 record and a state Division I title, ran through the gantlet of Campolindo, Serra and Archbishop Mitty en route to winning the championship of the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic.
It’s a team very comfortable in the half-court game, one that prides itself on playing great defense in a style similar not only to MC but fellow power Sierra of Manteca. But the Mustangs, while pulling out close wins against top competition, also have been prone to occasional toe-stubbing. On Jan. 6., they dropped a 59-53 decision to a Granada team that finished 15-12 and bowed out in the first round of the North Coast Section playoffs, 70-44 to San Leandro.
“Monte Vista is a tough challenge,” Midgley said. “You get so many days to prepare for that first game, and I really like that. We’ll be fully prepared, as will Monte Vista, and it should be a good and exciting matchup.”
But at the end of the season, people seem to remember the state champions. The team Modesto Christian beat for the section title – Sacramento High – was awarded the No. 1 regional seed in Division II and could make a run at a ring.
So if the goal is a state title, do the players really care in which division the banner is hoisted?
“I do care,” said junior guard Christian Ellis, who will be starting his third Open Division opening-round game. “I want to be in Open because it means we play the best teams. If you win Open Division, you are the best, and there’s no question about who has the bragging rights.”
Modesto Christian already has some bragging rights within this bracket. Of the eight teams playing Friday night, only the Crusaders and Bishop O’Dowd can boast of having made the field for three straight years. And of those two, only MC can point to having won two first-round games.
“That’s great,” said senior post Anthony Townes. “That’s what we strive for when we work hard every day. I would like to see a high seed and a home game, but that would have to be after I’m gone. Maybe if we win it all this year, they’d reward next year’s team.”
CIF NorCal Boys’ Open Division
Friday’s First Round (all games 7 p.m)
No. 8 St. Francis (22-6) vs. No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd (24-4) at Laney College
No. 7 Modesto Christian (28-3) at No. 2 Monte Vista (27-3)
No. 6 Serra (24-5) vs. No. 3 Moreau Catholic (23-6) at Chabot College
No. 5 El Cerrito (29-3) at No. 4 Folsom (27-4) at Vista del Lago HS
(Winners advance to Tuesday’s semifinals)
General admission $9
Students (w/card), children and seniors $5
Follow the Game
Brian VanderBeek tweet live updates from the game @modestobeek