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MJC will face Delta for NorCal opener

Modesto Junior College didn't land a home game in the Northern California Community College men's basketball playoffs, but the Pirates got the next-best thing: a game at its closest (by proximity) rival.

MJC fans will have to travel only as far as Stockton this Friday to watch the Pirates (22-10 and seeded 10th) take on seventh seed San Joaquin Delta (21-10). Tipoff will be at 7 p.m. at Blanchard Gym on the Delta campus.

The Merced College men (23-9), who finished third in the Central Valley Conference, earned a No. 6 seed and will be at home against No. 11 Yuba (25-7) at 7 p.m. Friday.

The women's teams from MJC (15-15) and Merced (16-15) missed the playoff field. Merced will sit out the postseason for the first time since 1992.

The Modesto men are entering the postseason on a hot streak, having won four in a row to solidify their fourth-place finish in the CVC.

"I'm fine with where we were seeded," MJC coach Paul Brogan said. "I know there was a push for us to be seeded eighth (which would have given the Pirates a home game), but it's hard to put a fourth-place team, even with our strength of schedule, ahead of another team that was a conference champion."

The CVC, traditionally one of the state's toughest basketball leagues, again lived up to that reputation by snagging three of the top six NorCal seeds. League champion Fresno City (27-8) earned the region's No. 1 seed, and runner-up West Hills (23-9) was seeded fifth.

Modesto was 0-3 against Fresno this season, losing twice in overtime and by seven points in regulation in their most recent meeting.

The Pirates also have a history against Delta, falling to the Mustangs 77-72 way back on Nov. 9. In addition, the Mustangs and Pirates were able to see each other in action, since they played in each other's tournaments.

Starting next season, they'll be conference rivals, with Modesto leaving the CVC for what will become the Big Eight.

"Delta was our first game of the season, and our guys felt they didn't play close to their best game," Brogan said. "But it's good that we don't have to travel very far and we're playing someone we're familiar with."

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Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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