SALIDA -- There's one make of luxury car that bills itself as the perfect driving machine.
But in your book, if driving means taking the ball to the basket and scoring at will, then Modesto Christian High also can lay claim to that nickname -- which the Crusaders proved once again Saturday in a 108-75 victory over Skyline of Oakland.
For seven games, MC lost high-scoring guard D.J. Seeley to an ankle sprain, and didn't miss a beat. Against the visiting Titans, the Crusaders had Reeves Nelson on the floor for only 20 minutes, 40 seconds before he was disqualified for picking up a second technical foul.
Seeley's back at near full-strength, and had an impressive 30-point, 12-rebound effort. And even in limited playing time Nelson left his stamp on the game with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
But when Dabrail Henton stepped up with a career-high 21 points, mostly inside after Nelson left the game, MC again proved its worth as a machine capable of running efficiently without a key part.
"We learned to step up when D.J. wasn't playing, and when Reeves went out it meant I had to pick my game up, grab boards and play the garbage man under the basket," said Henton, a 6-foot, 3-inch senior forward.
Modesto Christian (21-4) already has notched the Trans-Valley League title, but this is a program constantly looking past the regular season. As the Crusaders embark on their first trip into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs, coach Gary Porter is starting to like what he sees -- not only on the floor, but also on his bench.
"This team was deep to begin with, so it's been a matter of getting them on the same page," Porter said. "Also, these bench guys have to practice every day against Reeves and guys like that, and it has to make them better. You won't see anybody a whole lot better than Reeves in any game you play."
Skyline (15-10), which got 29 points from Loyola Marymount-bound guard Kwame Vaughn, trailed only 19-16 after the first quarter, but MC started attacking the Titans' trapping press to open the second quarter and never looked back.
"We knew they would keep that half-court trap on, and all we needed to do was hit it and then attack," Porter said. "That's our game. I like playing teams that try to trap us."
The Crusaders opened the second quarter on an 18-2 run to grab a 37-18 lead with 3:11 left. Moments later, after Nelson was called for a foul while blocking a shot, he handed the ball to the official who made the call and was whistled for a technical foul.
Skyline used that break in MC's momentum to cut the lead to 46-34 at halftime, but the Crusaders flew through a 31-point third quarter capped when Daniel Lemburg converted a fast-break layup off a Nelson pass. When Nelson grabbed the ball and flipped it underhanded to a Skyline player standing out of bounds, he was whistled for a second technical foul and was disqualified.
This time, there would be no letdown for MC.
With Nelson on the bench for the fourth quarter, Henton had 10 points, Johnny Hutton had eight and Seeley seven as the Crusaders put up another 31-point quarter to finish with their highest point total of the season.
"I really like playing these hard games," Henton said. "It's good for us to see what the good teams from the Bay Area are like."