The Modesto Christian Crusaders celebrate during a timeout late in the 4th quarter, as they take themselves to a Holiday Hoops 1st place title. (Diego Hernandez)

'I've never been more proud': Crusaders defend Holiday Hoop Classic crown

Independent Contributor

Despite the dreary day and rain, fans packed the gym at Modesto Christian High School to watch the final round of the 22nd annual Holiday Hoop Classic. These dedicated fans were treated to a thrilling rematch between the Crusaders and an undefeated Clovis West, who had previously met in last year’s NorCal playoffs.

MC once again came out on top, grounding the once-unbeaten Golden Eagles 79-55.

While Clovis West won the tip and took the lead in the first quarter, Modesto Christian was unstoppable in their hunt for its fifth tournament title overall and second in a row. Head coach Brice Fantazia was bursting with pride after the win.

“We won it last year — this one’s more special,” he said. 

More special not just because it is their first back-to-back title, but because he is proud of the adversity his team has overcome in the last few weeks. They opened the season with three consecutive losses, had their team ravaged by the flu and injury, and, most recently, lost four-star recruit Jamari Phillips to an out-of-state transfer. 

Family is very important to the Crusaders program and here they show that by posing with them after their victory over Clovis West. (Diego Hernandez)

“I’ve won NorCal championships, section championships, and I’ve never been more proud of a team. … They could have easily folded, and they’ve come together,” Fantazia continued.

He credits much of his team's resilience to senior guard BJ Davis.

“He’s our leader and the guys follow him. When a guy plays as hard as he does and competes like he does, we have no choice but to follow suit,” Fantazia praised. “He’s one of the best guards in MC history and he’s not done yet.”

Davis, who scored 25 points and was named co-MVP of the tournament with Jalen Brown, agreed wholeheartedly. 

“I’m really proud of our guys. … For us to just stay together and keep fighting, it just proves a lot about us,” he said. 

BJ Davis and Jalen Brown check out the trophy they were awarded as co-MVPs of the Holiday Hoop Classic. (Diego Hernandez)

The Crusaders didn’t just keep fighting, they dominated. After taking the lead midway through the first quarter, they didn’t relinquish it again.

MC outscored the Golden Eagles, who had won their first 17 games and climbed to No. 5 in the state rankings, in every quarter. 

“Clovis West is a physical team, they press full court all game,” Davis stated. “I feel like we were really just dialed in tonight and nobody can stop us when we’re dialed in.”

Prince Oseya, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, also impressed on the court. With his 12 points and at least a dozen rebounds, he showed that he can play both sides of the ball. 

“He was a beast,” said Fantazia. “Obviously his rim protection, his defense, is what gets a lot of credit, but tonight he was finishing on the rim, he was dominant, and he showed a little mean streak tonight which is what he needs.”

“We got a lot of stuff we need to work on,” Davis acknowledges, but he knows they are not yet at their peak. “We’re a great team, a great defensive team too, and (we’re) only going to get better.”

Zeke Davis forces his way through several Clovis West defenders to take his shot. (Diego Hernandez)

Samantha Schmidt is a freelance photographer and reporter with Her work has also been featured in the Turlock Journal and other Central Valley publications.