MODESTO — Alex Merkviladze was upset with himself following Modesto Christian’s 60-52 loss to Campolindo (Moraga) in the final of the 20th annual Holiday Hoop Classic.
As a senior and leader on this year’s MC team, Merkviladze expects a lot of himself, and the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward missed a couple makable shots near the rim late in the fourth quarter that would’ve changed the complexion of the contest
And nobody knew that better than the native of the Republic of Georgia.
“I am so mad at myself,” said Merkviladze, who scored a team-high 20-points. “Tomorrow, I’m going to go to the gym and work on those same shots … until I’m great at it.”
Only four Modesto Christian teams have been able to win a Classic title, a stunningly lowing number when one considers all the great teams produced on Sisk Road, a fact that was not lost on the MC big man.
“As a senior, I wanted to win this tournament so we could be known as one of the best teams at Modesto Christian,” said Merkviladze. “But we did great and I’m proud of my teammates.”
Many Crusaders squads didn’t win a Classic title, but that didn’t stop them from going to win Sac-Joaquin Section and state titles.
And that’s a fact that’s not lost on head coach Brice Fantazia.
“I think some of the guys are taking this a little too hard,” said Fantazia, who has 83 career victories as MC’s head coach with 17 regular-season games remaining. “We didn’t win this tournament last year and still went on to play for the NorCal Open Division championship. Campolindo is obviously one of the best teams in the state, with a lot of kids who know how to play and play together.”
Two of those players are the Maheny brothers — senior Carter and sophomore Aiden, both 6-foot-3. Carter didn’t score in the contest but helped his team in other ways — rebounding, finding open teammates, running the offense. Aiden, meanwhile, scored 30 points, including going 6-for-6 in three trips to the charity stripe in the final 33 seconds of the contest, helping to stretch a four-point lead into a 10-point lead. Teammate Emmanuel Callas, a 6-5 junior guard, finished with 20 points.
“We’ve lost games to Salesian, Mitty and Riordan this year, and we’ve had poor second halves in this games,” said Cougars head coach Steven Dyer. “We needed to learn how to close games out and play an improved second half.”
Third-place game: Clovis West 64, Weston Ranch 54 — The defending Holiday Hoop Classic champions got 25 points from Donjae Lindsay, but no other Weston Ranch player scored in double figures and the Cougars came up short against the Golden Eagles, who got 25 points from highly touted junior guard Cole Anderson, one of the top guards in California.
Fifth-place game: Clovis East 52, Vanden 51 — The Timberwolves(10-4) got 23 points from 6-2 senior guard William Wiggins as they pulled out a victory over the Vikings (9-4), who were led by 13 points from junior guard I’saac Montgomery and 11 points from 6-3 junior guard Agjanti Miller.
Seventh-place game: Brookside Christian 69, James Logan 62 — Geronimo De La Rosa, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, scored 25 points to lead the Knights (8-5), who also got 18 points from 5-11 junior Lito Pabalate. Logan (4-6), the CIF Division I runner-up last season, got 21 from senior guard Brah’jon Thompson and 17 from junior guard Makaio Mims.