Modesto Christian boys basketball coach Gary Porter admits he’s been more reflective this year.
This will be his last season as the Crusaders’ head coach, something he knew long before announcing it to the public last Tuesday. He’s made sure to stop and enjoy the little moments during his final run to basketball glory.
Though Friday’s game was a run-of-the-mill, 74-48 victory over Rio Americano (Sacramento) in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 playoffs, Porter will long remember it.
It was very likely his final game in the Modesto Christian gymnasium.
“It’s a little bit somber,” said Porter, who could possibly get another home date if the Crusaders aren’t moved into the Open division for the Northern California regional, which seems unlikely; MC will face Christian Brothers Tuesday at 9 p.m. at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, with a berth in the NorCal regional assured. “I tried not to think about it, and just keep the kids motivated.”
He did a fine job with that.
Rio Americano (16-13) opened the game in a zone defense and with big men Anthony Townes and Kevin Hamlet not finding much room to work inside, the Crusaders simply buried their outside shots en route to a 38-25 halftime advantage.
“We’ve been shooting the ball a lot better and our outside shooting kind of saved us in the first half,” said MC co-head coach Richard Midgley. “Mason (Washington) got into early foul trouble and Christian (Ellis) hit a couple of 3’s in the first half.”
Always looking to play an inside-outside game, Modesto Christian (20-8) would look inside to Townes and Hamlet, who set up their teammates for open looks from the perimeter.
“We have a considerable size advantage and some skilled big men,” said Midgley. “They were able to kick the ball out and give us a better percentage on our 3-point shots.”
But in the second half, when Rio grew a little weary from chasing the ball back out to the perimeter, the cracks in the zone grew bigger.
Townes (22 points) and Hamlet (14 points) were the wedges that split those cracks wide open.
The 6-foot-6 juniors combined for 14 points in the second quarter, while the rest of the squad contributed five – all coming inside the paint.
“We tried to make more of an effort in the second half to get the ball inside,” said Townes, who scored 10 of his game-high total on thunderous dunks. “I owe it all to my teammates. They were looking to get me the ball inside.”
As for Friday’s second-round game being his last home game, not to mention his 499th career victory at Modesto Christian, Townes said he and his teammates “sorta knew” and wanted to make sure their coaches last home game was a winning one.
Which is exactly what Porter didn’t want his players thinking about.
“I didn’t want them to think they had to win this game for me,” said Porter. “Then again, I didn’t want a loss tonight, either.”