The last time Modesto Christian failed to win a boys basketball league title, at least in the years it was affiliated with a league, none of its current players had been born.
Except for the eight seasons (1998-2006) MC spent as an independent program, the Crusaders have celebrated league championships every season since 1997.
Those celebrations might have been subdued, as Friday night’s was after a 76-52 Modesto Metro Conference-clinching victory over Beyer, but the meaning of the accomplishment is not lost on the players.
“Winning a league title always is nice because it shows how hard we work and how much time the coaches sacrifice to be with us,” said senior center Anthony Townes, who has been on the court for the last 49 wins in MC’s current nation-best 141-game league winning streak. “I hope we can keep it going.”
The vast majority of the Crusaders’ 13 MMC wins this season (they’re 22-3 overall) have been lopsided, with nearly all of them finishing with a running clock. Two weren’t lopsided by any means – the two against Beyer (22-4, 10-3).
In the first meeting, Jan. 21 at Beyer’s gym, the Patriots gave MC all it could handle before the Crusaders prevailed 61-54. This one wasn’t as close, but the final 24-point margin had everything to do with Modesto Christian’s performance and not with any slide in Beyer’s effort.
The difference this time was the way MC attacked the Patriots’ 1-3-1 zone, which gave the Crusaders fits in the first meeting.
MC coach Richard Midgley went to a double low post with 6-foot-5 Townes and 6-8 Robinson Idehen, then rotated 6-2 guard Christian Ellis to the high post. Ellis triggered the offense from there.
“We’ve used it a little, but we had to make a lot of adjustments from the first time we played Beyer because they do a great job defensively,” Midgley said.
Ellis had his way offensively, scoring 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, while Townes had 20 points and 13 rebounds and Idehen fought through foul trouble to notch 13 points and nine rebounds.
But Beyer wasn’t going to go away easily and was within 42-37 when Ryan Frakes hit the last of his three three-pointers with 6:11 left in the third quarter.
That seemed to be the signal for Modeseto Christian to turn up the intensity in its man-to-man defense, and the Patriots would manage only three field goals and 15 points in the final 14 minutes.
Beyer, which needed to be able to shoot over Modesto Christian, connected on only one of its final 15 shots from behind the arc.
The Crusaders, after Frakes’ shot, went on an 11-0 run to grab a 53-37 lead with 2:40 left in the quarter and went on to build leads as large as 26 points in the fourth quarter.
“We had such good success against them last time, I didn’t want to over-coach anything,” said Beyer coach Kyle McKim. “We kept the game plan pretty much the same and tried to make them make threes. We knew they would have better success out there tonight, but the difference was in how much we gave up inside.”
Beyer, which got 10 points from both Frakes and George Dancer, will be the No. 2 seed in the MMC and should get a home game in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. The Patriots entered the game ranked No. 6 in Division II, while MC is No. 2 behind Sacramento High.
In past years, being the top public school program in Modesto meant you got to hoist a banner. For the first time, that no longer applies, and Beyer isn’t about to go around proclaiming itself the City Schools champion.
“I wouldn’t want to be called that, but it did hit me the other night that we would have clinched a league title in years past,” McKim said. “We love playing against these guys. It might mean we don’t get to hang a banner, but we get to play two league games against an elite team every year.”