High school coaches are a famously neurotic lot. Look too far ahead and they fear their team will lose focus on the task at hand, but without long-term goals they fear their team may become complacent.
Modesto Christian’s Robb Spencer is not one of those coaches.
Spencer openly talks about winning a state title, the loftiest of all goals for a high school coach, even though he must first win the Northern California regional championship.
“We want to be the best and that’s the biggest prize in the state,” said Spencer, who will try to qualify for his third trip to a CIF championship game when his No. 2 Crusaders (25-8) play top-seeded Enterprise (28-2) of Redding today at 6 p.m. at American Canyon High School. “Not to put a damper on a section title, because those are hard to come by, too, but a state title is the ultimate goal.”
Spencer first guided Modesto Christian to the state title game in 2002 – with twins Courtney and Ashley Paris on the roster – and again in 2009. The ’02 squad lost 53-49 to Country Day (La Jolla) in the Division 5 final, while the ’09 team lost 54-51 to Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) in the D4 title game.
Spencer thinks this team is better equipped to go all the way because of its superior depth.
Depending on the health of point guard Ashley Lucas, who didn’t play in Tuesday’s 62-49 win over Vanden (Fairfield) because of a sprained ankle, the Crusaders can throw a rotation of 11 players at Enterprise.
“This team is so much deeper than those two other teams,” said Spencer. “In ’02 we had the Parris twins, but when we got to state we ran into Candace Wiggins, who was a phenomenal player.”
Wiggins went on to star for Stanford, where she became the school’s, and the Pac-10’s, all-time leading scorer, and there’s probably not a player of that caliber on Enterprise’s roster, though sophomore Kamira Sanders has proven herself to be a real talent, leading the team at nearly 19 points and five assists per game. Six-foot senior center Jordan Kimbrough averages 10.5 points and nine rebounds per contest, while 5-10 senior forward Rachel Martin totals 10.4 points and just under 11 rebounds per contest.
If the Crusaders can get past the Hornets, ranked No. 2 in Cal-Hi Sports’ statewide Division 3 poll (MC is ranked third), then they’d face either Santa Barbara or Santa Margarita (ranked fourth and fifth in Cal-Hi’s poll, respectively) at Sleep Train Arena on Friday at 2 p.m.
Oh, but that’s looking ahead.
“This is such a small school that it’s really a big topic around campus,” said senior Lexi Tubbs, a candidate for The Bee’s Player of the Year honor. “I can’t sleep at night I want to win a state title so badly.
“But as a team, we talk about it all the time. It’s hard not to, because we’re all super close. Robb is always saying that the little things matter, and I think our closeness definitely helps us.”
Sophomore guard Stephanie Moore agrees.
“Robb is always talking to us about making history,” said Moore, who averages 11 points per game. “We’ve had our ups and downs this season, but we feel like we’re getting better. And what better moment could that be happening?”
The Crusaders do seem to playing their best basketball of the season. However, during practice Friday, Spencer got on his players several times for making mental mistakes during a drill. At one point he barked, “Hey, it’s the difference between going home and going to state.”
On second thought, maybe he is a little neurotic, after all.