MODESTO – The Modesto Christian Crusader players stormed the court Friday night in a celebration no doubt born of relief more than joy.
They stared down season’s end and somehow pieced together a nervy 60-56 win in overtime over upset-minded Lincoln of Stockton. Modesto Christian hasn’t exhaled over a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I second-round win in quite a while, such was the drama that played out at Randy Anderson Gym.
“I wasn’t worried,” insisted San Diego State-bound guard BJ Davis after he rescued MC (24-6) with 27 points, 22 of them after the Crusaders’ sloppy first half. “I knew my moments would come.”
They eventually happened, but not before Modesto Christian trailed by 11 points early in the second half. Lincoln (25-5), which submitted to the Crusaders by 17 and 20 points in Tri-City Athletic League play, did not look like the team MC easily handled.
The Trojans withstood MC’s comeback, in fact, and inbounded with 3 seconds left in regulation with a chance to win. Davis easily swatted away Elijah Holmes’ perimeter shot, which bought the home team four more precious minutes.
Prince Oseya, MC’s 6-foot-10 senior post, put the Crusaders ahead to stay with a tip-in early in the overtime. Moments later after Oseya’s made free throw and subsequent miss, Zeke Davis rebounded the miss and scored. BJ Davis stroked home a triple from the top of the key—after Oseya’s offensive rebound--and MC stabilized.
"Lincoln is one of the better teams in the section. They played great,” Modesto Christian coach Brice Fantazia praised. “I don’t think people realized how good the TCAL was this season.”
The Trojans surprised MC with their physicality and hot shooting during the first half. Quentin Thompson, a 6-4 junior who averages only 8 points per game, over-achieved by scoring 20 points. Anthony Moore, a 6-5 sophomore, finished with 15 points and was especially effective on defense vs. BJ Davis in the first half.
Moore’s tip-in capped a 10-0 run during the first half—he accounted for eight of the points-- that signaled Lincoln’s arrival as a very aroused underdog.
“They did a good job taking our stuff away, and the refs did what they should in the playoffs and let the game be physical,” Fantazia said. “If you watch a lot of Modesto Christian games, you don’t usually see our guys on the ground (like tonight).”
Lincoln dealt the blows for much of the night, and Modesto Christian experienced a Category 4 scare with 2:12 left in regulation. BJ Davis writhed on the court in pain behind the MC glass, resulting in a five-minute stoppage. It turned out to be a cramp, however, and Davis returned to tie the game 51-51 with 50 seconds to go.
Jalen Brown had 14 points for Modesto Christian, and freshman guard Rashod Cotton, after a quiet first half, finally ignited the offense during the third quarter. Lincoln senior Taylor Bryant-Frey added to MC’s anxiety with 15 points, 13 after halftime.
Modesto Christian’s reward is a trip to Sacramento on Wednesday night for a semifinal collision with No. 2 seed Inderkum, which defeated Laguna Creek 69-55. The road game is the consequence for MC’s curious slotting as a No. 3 seed, an assignment deemed even more provocative by No. 1 seed Folsom’s loss Friday night to Weston Ranch.
“No way Folsom plays a tougher schedule than us,” Fantazia said.
All that pre-tournament noise paled next to Modesto Christian’s brush with elimination, however, as an event-filled season took another unpredictable turn.
“Our seniors didn’t want the season to be over,” Fantazia said. “They toughed it out.”