Modesto Christian boys basketball coach Brice Fantazia hopes his team will be awarded a home game in the Nothern California Open Division tournament. (Joe Cortez/Front Row Preps)

MC falls to Sheldon in D-I rematch, now awaits fate in NorCal tourney

Joe Cortez

Brice Fantazia woke up Sunday morning and the sun was out. It even managed to break through the gray winter haze, too. 

That’s got to be a good sign, right? That the sun shone so brightly just hours after his Modesto Christian boys basketball team squandered a 14-point lead and lost 64-61 to Sheldon in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I final, Fantazia had moved on from the loss and already was looking to the Northern California regional tournament.

“We talked about it before the season that everything we do this year is to get ready for Open Division,” said Fantazia, whose team captured the section’s D-I banner last year and earned  the No. 3 overall seeding in the Open Division. “There’s not too many things you can do to make history here at Modesto Christian. With all the great teams we’ve had, there’s not better way to leave a mark than to win the NorCal Open Division.”

Modesto Christian (25-7) played for the state championship in 2001, but that was before the CIF began utilizing an Open Division. Fantazia’s predecessor, Richard Midgley, twice guided the Crusaders to the Nor Cal Open final, where they fell one step short of playing for a state crown.

Though he’s hopeful of securing the No. 4 seed, which would give MC a home game, Fantazia thinks the CIF seeding committee likely will slide his team in the No. 5 slot.
“We’re hoping we can get a No. 4 seed like Sheldon did after we beat them last year,” said Fantazia, whose team met the Huskies in the final for a second consecutive season. 

Sheldon, which won its sixth section title and played in its 10th final in the past 16 years, parlayed that No. 4 seed last year into a NorCal title and a trip.

Fantazia was mildly irritated that his club got only the No. 3 seed last year.

“We were the three seed after winning the toughest section in Northern California,” said Fantazia. “You had us, Sheldon, Capital Christian and Folsom from our section go Open.”

This year, three Sac-Joaquin Section squads — MC, Sheldon and Weston Ranch — could make the cut. 

The Crusaders lost to Salesian (Richmond), the state’s No. 1 team as ranked by Cal-Hi Sports, in overtime on a neutral floor — without Aaron Murphy, who sat out with the flu that night — and beat Clovis West by 17 and James Logan by 20.
So, even if MC doesn’t get a home game and has to travel in the first round, it knows that it can play with the best that Northern California has to offer.

“Five of our losses have been to teams that are ranked top 30 in the nation by MaxPreps,” said Fantazia. “We just hope the committee takes that into account.”

Another thing the committee might want to take into account? A first-round matchup between Weston Ranch and MC, the first- and second-ranked teams in the Front Row Region, respectively. The campuses are just 20 miles apart.

“Everybody in the 209 would be there,” said Fantazia,