Modesto Christian's Jamari Phillips, one of the top sophomores in the nation, puts up a shot in the Crusaders' 77-52 victory over Durango (Las Vegas) in the championship game of the 21st annual Holiday Hoop Classic on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. (Samantha Schmidt/Front Row Preps)

Modesto Christian wins first Holiday Hoop Classic championship in six years

Joe Cortez

Modesto Christian boys basketball coach Brice Fantazia checked off another item from his coaching to-do list Thursday night when his Crusaders defeated Durango (Las Vegas) 77-52 in the championship game of the 21st annual Holiday Hoop Classic.

“Finally, I got one,” said Fantazia, now in his sixth season as MC’s head coach. “When I was in high school we took third, and I won one as an assistant, but this is my first as a head coach.”

The Crusaders got 21 points from 6-3 sophomore Jamari Phillips, 19 from 6-4 sophomore Ty Virgil, and. 13 from 6-1 junior B.J. Davis in picking up the school’s first Classic title since 2015.

Phillips, Virgil and Davis were named to the all-tournament team, while Phillips took home the MVP trophy.

“It feels great, it’s an honor,” said Phillips, who had seven points in the first quarter and then started the second stanza with a rim-rattling dunk on the break, but was forced to the bench when he picked up his third foul with 4:45 to play in the first half. “But I was really focused on winning this title as a team.”

Durango opted to drop into a 2-3 zone that slowed the Crusaders. An early five-point advantage for MC turned into a five-point deficit as the Trailblazers opened the second quarter with a 12-2 surge.

“We were without three starters so we had to play a little more zone,” said Durango coach Chad Beeten, whose team traveled the farthest of any in the four-games-in-four-days tournament. “For three of our players, it was their first time playing varsity basketball, and we had two freshmen in the backcourt. I think they got a little tired, which led to a few mental mistakes. When you’re tired, the brain is the first thing that goes. But the zone worked for a while.”

And then it didn’t.

Modesto Christian started hitting shots from outside, rendering the zone toothless. The Crusaders hit seven second-half treys, with Phillips, Virgil, Davis and senior Alex Argandar connecting from long range to help MC pull away.

The Trailblazers were without 6-4 senior D-I prospect Shane Thomas, 6-6 junior forward Sterling Knox, and 6-2 junior guard Sebastian Mack, who already has a handful of D-I offers in hand. Part-time starter Tommy Brascia, a 6-7 forward, was injured in Durango’s semifinal win against Pleasant Valley on Wednesday.

Modesto Christian also played without a trio of stars. Absent were Darius Smith, out for the seasons with a torn ACL, Henoc Kabeya and Everett Hunter, one of just three seniors on the squad.

The Crusaders, ranked fifth overall in California, and Trailblazers met on Dec. 4 in Las Vegas, with MC winning 68-57.