One year after surviving a scare from Beyer High, the Modesto Christian boys basketball team left no doubt in an 81-61 victory.
Junior Ballard scored 18 points, Dathan Satchell had 17 and the Crusaders blew open a tight game with a 24-11 push in the third quarter.
“I’m satisfied with how hard we played,” Modesto Christian coach Brice Fantazia said. “The guys didn’t disrespect Beyer. They knew they were going to be a good team, so they came out ready to play.
“I don’t think we played well. We had a lot of breakdowns, defensively. We had been shooting the lights out from 3. Tonight, we couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. I don’t think we played well, but anytime you can beat a team like Beyer by 20, I’ll take it.”
Modesto Christian (16-3, 7-0) has now won a national-best 177 consecutive league games, a streak that dates back to 1996. The last team to beat the Crusaders became the answer to a Twitter trivia question earlier this week: Mariposa in February of 1996.
Since then, it’s been a trail of blowouts, spanning the Trans-Valley League and Modesto Metro Conference. Beyer, the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division II finalist and top public-school program in the Stanislaus District, has been the exception.
In 2015, with graduated stars Jake Polack and Georgie Dancer at the controls, the Patriots (12-8, 5-2) stayed within one possession in the fourth quarter. In their first meeting a season ago, Beyer had a chance to go-ahead twice in the final 30 seconds of a 58-57 loss.
It wasn’t so close on Wednesday.
Even without their top passer — junior transfer Earv Knoxx (knee) — Modesto Christian’s ball movement and weapons overwhelmed Beyer. The Crusaders came on in waves down the stretch and showcased their depth despite injury concerns at the start of the week.
Satchell cut down the lane and exploded toward the rim, showing no ill-effects of a deep bruise suffered against Downey.
Tyler Williams punctuated the Crusaders’ third-quarter push wth a two-hand slam in transition. Williams was doubtful after suffering a shoulder injury last week and missing the game against Downey. He was cleared by a doctor on Wednesday.
Tsotne Tsardsidse, a 6-foot-8 international, also saw his first action since the Holiday Hoop Classic in December.
“I didn’t think he was going to play, but he wanted to give it a try. I thought he looked good in the limited minutes he had,” Fantazia said of Tsardsidse, whose return boosts Modesto Christian’s chances going into Saturday’s showdown with Capital Christian, a Northern California power.
“We were trying to see who can go Saturday. Most of those guys won’t play Friday (against Johansen). Everything is for Saturday now."
Modesto Christian entered the game on fire from beyond the 3-point arc, shooting nearly 50 percent over its last six games. It went cold on Wednesday evening, connecting on just five 3-pointers, but it mattered little.
Baljot Sahi had 13 points on three 3s, Michael Pearson finished with 11, and Gabe Murphy netted nine.
Modesto Christian led 34-27 the half and seized control with a 9-2 run to start the third.
Beyer point guard Ben Polack inspired hope with a spin move in the lane and 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions, but Ballard answered with a 3 of his own.
Pollack shouldered the load, offensively. He had seven of the Patriots’ 11 field goals through three quarters and finished with a game-high 21 points. Brandon Gray had 15 and McKay Bundy scored five of his 10 points in the fourth quarter for Beyer, which had its season-best six-game winning streak stopped.
“We did share the ball extremely well,” Fantazia said. “When we get up and down like that, I can live with some of the turnovers. We scored 81 points and shot horribly from the 3, so I guess I shouldn’t be too mad.”