How good was Modesto Christian during its 68-31 victory over undefeated Kimball in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II girls basketball final?
Probably too good.
The Crusaders wrapped up a second consecutive section championship Saturday at Sleep Train Arena – last year they played in Division III – and in blowing out a team that entered with a 30-0 record, they very likely punched their ticket to the Open division of the Northern California regional tournament.
Also bolstering the Crusaders’ case for inclusion in the top flight is Bradshaw Christian’s 74-62 win over Brookside Christian, a team that was on the fast track toward the Open division before Saturday’s loss in the D-IV final.
Pairings will be announced today for the NorCal tournament, which tips off Monday.
“Personally, I’m excited,” said MC senior guard Candice White, who was named Player of the Game for her 16-point, six-rebound performance. “To play in the Open division of Northern California, you’ve got to be one of the best teams in Northern California. I love that feeling. The way I look at it, we’ve got nothing to lose. Either way, I’m ready to go.”
White and her teammates were certainly ready to go Saturday, save for the opening 90 seconds of the first quarter, when they fell behind 6-0 and looked like the Keystone Kops in doing so.
“I think it was a little bit of nerves,” said White, who missed last year’s section finale with an injured ACL, though she did make it back for the NorCal semis. “We were thinking too much. Our team thinks a lot a lot of the time.”
Two turnovers, a double-dribble infraction and a missed field-goal attempt allowed the Jaguars to take an early lead.
But that was the end of stinkin’ thinkin’ for MC. From there, the Crusaders just did what comes naturally – they played championship basketball.
A 20-2 run over 4 minutes and 43 seconds – ignited by a three-pointer from Samantha Johnson and keyed by 10 points from White – resulted in a 20-8 advantage late in the first quarter, and Kimball never recovered.
“I think we just wanted it so badly,” said MC coach Robb Spencer, whose team improved to 27-4. “Once we settled in, we were able to get it going.”
Modesto Christian’s quick feet and active hands were instrumental in forcing 24 turnovers. That also played a big part in MC’s 53-33 advantage in rebounds. Even senior Samantha Johnson (10 points), who admittedly has a bad habit of camping out in three-point land and waiting for an open look, attacked the basket.
“I’m always on her to do other things,” Spencer said. “This is what she’s capable of. She’s a heck of a player and a heck of a kid.”
Johnson was 3 of 6 on three-point attempts.
“I’ve definitely been working more in the gym to get to where my team needs me to be,” Johnson said. “When they went on that 6-0 run, I realized somebody had to step up and get us on track.”
After Johnson’s three-pointer got MC on the board, it was as if a switch was turned on. The Crusaders began playing as if Sleep Train Arena was their home floor, and Kimball looked like a team intimidated by the big-time environment.
“I don’t know if they were intimidated by us,” MC point guard Ashley Lucas said. “But they may have been intimidated by the court and the crowd and the cameras.”
Modesto Christian’s Lailoni Gaines finished with 11 points and five rebounds, while Meagan Warwick had nine points and 10 boards.