Both Modesto Junior College basketball teams ended the first half of conference play optimistically, if not with victories, against higher-ranked opponents on Tuesday night.
The Modesto men narrowly lost to host San Joaquin Delta 61-50. The Mustangs are ranked 10th in the state and fifth in Northern California.
The Modesto women lost 73-56 as the Mustangs remained undefeated in Big 8 Conference play. Delta is tied for fifth in the state rankings and is third in NorCal.
The Pirate men last played Delta in their third game of the season, losing 58-37 in the championship game of the San Jose City tournament on Nov. 11.
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Modesto coach Paul Brogan said the Mustangs (21-4, 6-1 Big 8) dominated his team in that November game. That was not the case Tuesday.
"I think we took a positive step tonight," Brogan said. "We had a couple turnovers they scored off of and a couple bad shots. But our half-court to half-court game was fairly evenly matched the whole game."
Modesto (12-11, 1-6 Big 8) couldn't get much going as Delta gave shooters Brian Bergerson and Eleazar Jones no room to breathe, much less shoot.
Marvin Jefferson scored 11 points and had 12 blocks and eight rebounds to highlight Modesto's night.
Though not happy to lose four in a row, Jefferson showed little frustration after the game.
"It's sad because everyone's really playing hard," Jefferson said. "We get it together, but we're too late. It's like we're climbing this hill but we can't get over the top."
Kevin Dupree scored 12 points and had four rebounds for Modesto, which shot just 36.2 percent from the floor.
Delta was led by Roman Van Allen's 20 points. Lavar Neufville added 17.
DELTA 73, MJC 56 — An off-night by the Pirates didn't help their efforts to hand Delta its first Big 8 loss.
Modesto (16-8, 5-2 Big 8) cut the deficit to 10 points, 54-44, on a Stephanie Doerksen free throw with 5:53 left.
But the Mustangs (21-6, 6-0 Big 8) pulled away with an 11-0 run, including three 3-pointers, to dash Modesto's hope of a comeback.
Neither team played its sharpest game, but Modesto's shortcomings were more obvious.
The Pirates trailed by as much as 22 points in the first half.
Modesto opened the second half with a 12-4 run in the first 10 minutes, but couldn't sustain the intensity, particularly with starters Connie Gomes and Kacey Ball in foul trouble.
Gomes led Modesto with 17 points, nine rebounds and six steals.
"Delta didn't hit a three for a long time in the second half because we were out there hustling," Modesto coach Mike Girardi said. "We're right there. We just need to come out at the beginning of the game like that."
Modesto is ranked 16th in the state and eighth in Northern California.