Anthony Townes has played at Sleep Train Arena so many times during his four years on the Modesto Christian High School varsity, he’s thinking about petitioning the NBA for a pension.
“Yeah, that would be nice,” Townes said with a laugh, his dental braces sparking. “It’s always a special moment when you get to play on an NBA floor. It’s a real honor.”
The 6-foot-6 University of the Pacific-bound forward made the most of his next-to-last Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance at the home of the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday afternoon, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead the second-seeded Crusaders to a 59-46 victory over third-seeded St. Mary’s.
Modesto Christian (27-3) faces the winner of Wednesday’s late game between No. 1 Sacramento and No. 4 Cosumnes Oaks in the Division II final at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Sleep Train.
The Crusaders, making their first appearance in Division II, hope to become the first school to win titles in five divisions, having claimed a section-record 16 championships – spread across Divisions I, III, IV and V – since 1997.
No matter the opponent, Modesto Christian will have a size advantage. Flanking Townes is 6-8 junior Robinson Idehen, who had 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds as the Crusaders outrebounded the Rams 41-23.
The frontcourt dominance gave MC the luxury of concentrating solely on its inside game. Actually, it was a necessity since the Crusaders did not connect in seven attempts from three-point range and in the fourth quarter eschewed the perimeter game.
“At halftime we just tried to keep everybody composed and put in a little different movement to get the guys some deeper post position,” coach Richard Midgley said. “In the second half the way Anthony and Robinson were getting the offensive rebounds, it allowed us to get a lot of second-chance points just because of how hard they were working.”
That was the difference. The Crusaders, who led only 37-35 after three quarters, opened the fourth period on a 22-7 run, with all the points coming inside or at the foul line.
“Anthony and Robin are the best big men around, so we’ll always be able to feed it to them because I don’t know of anyone who can guard them at the high school level,” said junior guard Christian Ellis, who was 8 for 9 at the line and finished with 15 points.
“But me, Jeff (Wu) and the other guards do have to step up offensively when we play bigger schools, and we’ll have to step up on Saturday. Whether shooting, scoring or passing, we have to pick it up.”
The Rams (22-8) will await their seed in the Northern California Division II regionals when the brackets are released Sunday. They got 13 points from forward Lance Coleman and 10 off the bench from guard Aaron Masuda.
One factor should favor the shooters for both teams that reach Saturday’s final – playing back-to-back games in the arena setting.
“When we came out for warmups, we were airballing shots,” Ellis said. “It’s a completely different environment with the lights and the backboard. People think that’s an excuse, but when you actually come out here and shoot, you see how different it is and how difficult it is to get a feel for it.”
But for Townes, who moved past Elk Grove’s Bill Cartwright into seventh place on the section’s all-time postseason scoring list with 238 points, Saturday’s game at Sleep Train will be special.
“It’s a great advantage to play back-to-back games here,” he said. “When you step on it for the first time every year, there’s always an adjustment. But come Saturday, we’ll know the floor and the arena and everything will be perfect for us.”