Meagan Warwick wished somebody else were standing on the free-throw line at Sleep Train Arena on Friday night.
Funny, but nobody else on the Modesto Christian girls basketball team did.
The 5-foot-6 freshman hit a pair of free throws with four-tenths of a second showing on the clock to give the Crusaders a 39-37 victory over Florin (Sacramento) and, with them, the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 championship.
“No,” replied Warwick, when asked if she knew she’d make the championship-clinching tosses. “I was scared, but my teammates had confidence in me and that helped.
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“I was hoping it would be Lexi (Tubbs).”
Senior Jasmine Hampton, who grabbed a key rebound with just seconds to play that gave MC possession and led to the freebies, knew the Crusaders were in good hands.
“I knew she was very nervous,” said Hampton. “She’s a freshman and had must’ve had butterflies, but I was fully behind her – 100 percent.”
Warwick’s twin sister, Nicole, figured the scorekeeper could put free throws in the book.
“I knew she was going to make them,” said Nicole Warwick. “Because she’s my twin, and I trust her.”
So does coach Robb Spencer, who earned his sixth blue section banner as the Crusaders head coach.
“None at all,” replied Spencer at the postgame podium when asked if he had any doubts. “Meagan and Nicole are perfectionists and they’ll kill each other, and anybody else, if they can’t get something perfect.
“I couldn’t ask for anybody better to be on the line.”
The Crusaders took a 37-34 lead with 53 seconds to play when Tubbs nailed her fourth 3-pointer of the game. But less than 20 seconds later, Florin’s Dalayna Sampton scored inside and hit the ensuing foul shot to knot the score.
On MC’s next possession, Tubbs drove the lane and turned the ball over.
“I was going for a foul,” said Tubbs, who held the blue championship banner while enjoying a carton of chocolate milk supplied by a tournament sponsor. “Robb told me to drive; he always says it’s why we go to the gym, it’s why we lift weights.”
Florin ran down the clock, but probably shot it a bit too early. When the shot missed its mark, and Hampton corralled the rebound, the Crusaders had just enough time to get the ball up court.
“I knew I had to go get it,” said Hampton. “I knew it would be a game-changer.”
Point guard Ashley Lucas misfired, but Warwick was fouled trying to score on a putback, sending her to the line for her championship moment.
Amazingly, Warwick had not attempted a field goal or free throw in the game.
And racing through her mind was the thought that a championship rode on the flick of her wrist.
“A billion thoughts were going through my mind, but that kept coming back,” said Warwick. “So, that was interesting.”
The Crusaders got out of the blocks quickly, jumping to an 11-0 lead, getting eight points from Tubbs (17 points) during the run. Florin didn’t get on the board until Rhianna Jackson hit a layup with 1:40 to play in the opening stanza.
“I think it was more that we dug ourselves a hole and we fought so hard to get back, and we used so much energy to do that,” said Florin coach Larry Price. “We’re playing shorthanded. We fought and we ran out of energy.”
But just as quickly as MC started, it slowed in the second quarter.
Modesto Christian either tried to force passes inside to the post or shoot over the top of the zone, and neither worked.
“We had six turnovers in the second quarter and we had only three in the first,” said Spencer. “And we were outrebounded in the second quarter.
“But we fought and scrapped and did what we had to do to finish.”
After the game, during the postgame press conference, many of the Crusaders were fighting back tears.
Hampton, who has battled injury this season and only recently returned to the lineup, was the first get emotional.
“I lost my grandmother about a year ago, and I’ve been waiting to feel her presence,” said Hampton, who shared that members of her family had felt the presence of, or been visited in dreams by, the late Betty Lessley. “During that last timeout I felt her, and she was telling me that we were going to win the game.”