SALIDA — One year ago, Eric Waterford was a member of the winter homecoming court at Davis High School before transferring to Modesto Christian.
On Friday, he watched two teammates have that experience, then he set out to be king of the homecoming game.
The senior guard scored 13 of his game-high 24 points during a 17-2 scoring run that allowed the Crusaders to pull away to a 74-49 victory over Ripon Christian.
"Last year I was involved in all of that," Waterford said. "This year, I just got to go out in my last homecoming and be a leader on the court."
MC improved to 11-0 in the Trans-Valley League and 19-3 overall, while the Knights remained in second place in the TVL at 8-3 and are 18-6 overall.
It was the third meeting of the season between the teams, and a fourth is likely to pop up in the upcoming Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.
It's not a matchup MC coach Gary Porter is savoring.
"I don't like playing any team three times, and then we had homecoming and all of that," Porter said. "It's tough, but I give Ripon Christian a lot of credit. They're a good team and they play us hard every time we see them."
And, a rivalry appears to be in the making between the schools that are only 4 miles apart. Just prior to tipoff, a scuffle broke out in the stands when a sign insinuating that MC recruits was hoisted and quickly ripped up.
Order was restored within seconds, and there were no further incidents.
But midway through the third quarter, things began to heat up in a competitive way when back-to-back 3-pointers by Ken Hannink and Reid Van Duyn pulled the Knights within 37-33.
Waterford took control, starting and ending the 17-2 run with 3-pointers as the Crusaders took a 54-35 lead into the final seven minutes.
"We weren't worried when it got down to four points," Waterford said. "That's when we came together as a team and decided it was time to go. We knew it would be hard for Ripon Christian to stay with us for four quarters."
Adrian den Dulk had 12 points to lead Ripon Christian, which got 3-pointers from six different players.
Reeves Nelson, who was the sophomore class homecoming king nominee, had 13 points for MC, while Leroy Velasquez had 10 and Chad Endres 9 to go with his homecoming king crown.
"Thank goodness Eric wasn't involved in the homecoming," Porter said. "Football, basketball, it doesn't matter — I hate playing homecoming games, but you have to have them."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at 578-2300 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.