It appeared that the only calling card left by the 2014-15 Modesto Junior College Pirates would be their glossy 3.62 team grade-point average.
Until Friday night.
The Pirates waited until their final game, a 70-67 upset victory over Big 8 Conference runner-up Diablo Valley, to put down on the hardwood what they do almost every day in the classroom.
“We competed every single night. Tonight we got it done,” said Blake Terry, one of only two sophomores on the roster. “The wins weren’t there a lot, but it doesn’t reflect what kind of guys we are.”
The Pirates (6-20, 3-11), one of California’s most offense-starved teams, shocked DVC (17-12, 9-5), which handed Modesto a 78-40 shellacking – the Pirates’ worst loss of the season – on Jan. 27.
But for one of the few times this winter, Modesto applied pressure by nailing perimeter shots. The Pirates supplemented aggressive drives to the basket with 10 triples, four by Joe Hamilton. Amazingly, they never trailed in the econd half.
Diablo Valley, which had won three of four here for third place at the MJC Invitational, confidently cut into a 10-point Modesto lead with seven minutes left.
Modesto answered this time, however, with the clutch play. It came in the form of a determined kick-out by guard Tristin Rodgers to Hamilton (14 points), who netted the 3-pointer from the wing for a 64-61 lead with 1:10 left.
“When Tristin leaves his feet, he’s a good passer,” Hamilton said. “I’d hit a few from that spot already, so I was ready.”
From there, the Pirates finished with 6-of-6 from the line--two by Petkovic (10 points) and four by Terry (17 points). Terry’s second pair, with 3 seconds to go, upped the lead to three.
Diablo Valley’s Jaques Carraway found only glass from halfcourt as time expired, and Modesto dug into the archives to find its victory celebration. The Pirates had lost nine straight.
Incredibly, they carried the attack to Diablo Valley, resulting in 18 of 24 free throws. DVC responded with only 1 of 4.
“Our guys deserve all the credit. They put together two good halves,” MJC coach Paul Brogan said.
“It’s been such a great year coaching these guys. Even though we didn’t win a lot of games, they’re winners. Easy team to coach.”
Diablo Valley, which had won five straight, probably dropped a few seeds – maybe a first-round home game – in the upcoming NorCal Playoffs. But Steve Coccimiglio, the Vikings’ coach since 1990, offered no excuses.
“Give them (Modesto) credit. They made the big shots throughout the game,” he said. “We didn’t disrupt their offense at all. We did not play with a purpose all night. Modesto did.”
As it turned out, the Pirates capped a painful season with probably their two best games, a six-point loss to Big 8 champion Cosumnes River and their masterpiece over DVC.
“That’s the way to go out,” Terry said.
Women finish--Brianna McGinness nursed a bloody nose at halftime, a parting gift for the hardest-working Pirate over the last two seasons. The former Calaveras High star finished her career with typical blue-collar toughness--16 points and more than 10 rebounds in a 63-46 loss to Big 8 co-champion Diablo Valley.
Late in the game, McGinness pulled down two offensive rebounds and then fed Diana Carmona for a successful baseline jump shot. To her, it didn’t matter that her MJC team (4-21, 3-11) struggled in the win-loss column. A sixth-place finish, an improvement after not winning a league game last year, was enough.
“Winning with my team was the best experience ever. Even losing with them was good,” McGinness said. “I play the game because I love it. I’ll still have the memories.”
MJC was hard-pressed to keep pace with Diablo Valley (13-1, 24-5), ranked fourth in California. The Vikings will share the league title with San Joaquin Delta after they subdued Modesto with balanced scoring led by Taiyla Jackson with 15 points. Delta preserved its share of the title with an easy 91-55 win over American River.
The Pirates labored offensively all season, yet enjoyed some good moments toward the end. Guard Janel Ortega, a co-captain with McGinness, connected on four straight shots during MJC’s victory over Cosumnes River on Tuesday night.
The improvement was acknowledged by coach Mike Girardi. He started all sophomores, as six played their last game for MJC.
“When your captains are your hardest workers, that helps a lot,” Girardi said. “Just the fight in the girls was big for us.”
Eight Pirates scored, including six apiece by Carmona, Ortega, Jacqueline Kisst and Taylor Martinez.