Modesto Christian's Alex Merkviladze scored 17 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in leading the Crusaders to a 54-35 victory over St. Mary's on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Modesto, Calif. (Samantha Schmidt/Front Row Preps)

Modesto Christian avenges 2019 'loss' to St. Mary's, stays unbeaten in TCAL

Joe Cortez

MODESTO — Modesto Christian’s boys basketball team held St. Mary’s scoreless on the Rams’ final 13 possessions of their Tri-City Athletic League showdown Friday night, avenging a “loss” last year on its home court.

Of course, that loss — a 60-54 setback to St. Mary’s — later was overturned after it was discovered that the Rams used an ineligible player in the contest. Modesto’s Christian’s league winning streak, which dates back to 1996, found new life. The Crusaders extended the streak to 201 games on Friday.

MC sophomore Oziyah Sellers scores in the fourth quarter for the Crusaders. (Samantha Schmidt/Front Row Preps)

Still, that “loss” was on the minds of many MC players, as was the fact that St. Mary’s recently defeated Campolindo in Moraga — a Campo team that defeated MC last month for the Holiday Hoop Classic title.

“It was kind of revenge this year, because we lost last year in our house,” said the Crusaders’ 6-8 forward Alex Merkviladze, who scored 17 points and pulled down 20 rebounds to lead the MC attack. “So, we didn’t want to do the same thing this year and, as a senior, I needed to step up for my youngsters.”

Those youngsters also contributed.

Sophomore Oziyah Sellers finished with 13 points, 11 coming in the fourth quarter when MC was able to pull away. Freshman Darius Smith also came off the bench to deliver key minutes for the Crusaders.

With the victory, Modesto Christian (12-5) improves to 5-0 in the TCAL, while the Rams (15-3) drop into a tie with Lincoln (17-2) at 3-1 in league. The Crusaders handed the Trojans their only league loss on Jan. 3 in Stockton. MC will face Lincoln again on Feb. 1 and then travel to take on St. Mary’s on Feb. 7.

But first, the Crusaders will participate in the Martin Luther King Showcase on Monday at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, taking on Dublin at 5:30 p.m. The Gaels (13-3) are ranked 20th in the state by and are one of the top teams in Northern California.