Modesto Christian’s Candice White has a surgically repaired knee she needs to take care of, and there’s her future at Fresno State to consider.
But there she was, with her team trailing by more than 30 points in the fourth quarter, playing as though her team were up by a basket.
The MC senior and Stanislaus District Player of the Year candidate gave everything she had to give in her final game in Crusaders blue, a 90-65 loss to top-seeded St. Mary’s, the No. 1 team in California and the second-ranked team in America, in the Northern California Regional.
“That’s part of what Robb (Spencer) teaches us,” said White, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “Whether you’re down by 30 or 40, at least try to win the next possession. Show some heart.”
No matter how bad things got at times for Modesto Christian (27-5), White and the rest of her teammates kept battling. Junior Lailoni Gaines finished with 17 hard-earned points inside the paint.
“There’s no way you’re going to win that game, when you spot them 20 points in the first quarter,” said Spencer, who guided his team to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title last week, and the D-III state title last season. “Until we stop having those lapses, this will be the result every time.”
This game was decided much like their first meeting on Jan. 10, when host St. Mary’s (31-1) handed MC a 92-66 nonleague loss – with an avalanche of pressure and forced turnovers that resulted in a lopsided run over a six-minute stretch during the first and second quarters.
White’s basket with 2 minutes, 21 seconds left in the opening quarter cut St. Mary’s lead to a manageable eight points at 21-13. But the Crusaders turned the ball over on their next six possessions before ending a streak with a field goal that made it 28-15 with seconds left in the quarter. Modesto Christian opened the second with missed field-goal attempts on its first two possessions, then again turned the ball over on six consecutive possessions.
Junior Natalie La Tour (13 points), a transfer from St. Mary’s, ended the Rams’ 17-2 run with a basket that made it 38-17.
St. Mary’s full-court pressure was simply too much for the Crusaders, who had trouble getting the ball across midcourt at times.
Finally, late in the second quarter, MC seemed to acclimate to the break-neck speed at which the Rams play, and went on a modest 8-0 run that made it 38-23 with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
However, any dreams of a comeback were dashed by Carlissa Shipp’s three-point bomb that pushed the lead back to 18.
After the game, the Crusaders filed out of the visitors’ locker room one by one, getting a hug from Spencer before walking through a line of well-wishers who were staked out along the baseline.
White was the last to emerge, and the well-wishers’ organized line broke down and surrounded the MC star.
White hugged or shook hands with seemingly everyone in attendance before conducting what will probably be her final interview in a Crusaders’ uniform.
Is it too soon to think about her legacy at MC?
“That’s a hard one,” said White. “I just think I’d like to be remembered as someone who always tried to make her teammates better.
“Basketball’s a team game and that’s how you have to play, as a team, to win.”