In the darkened gym, Modesto Christian’s BJ Davis looms large from two drop-down screens.
“This is our year,” the San Diego State commit says, and the Crusaders were out to prove it on Tuesday during the opening round of the Holiday Hoop Classic. Modesto Christian edged Downey, 44-37.
The Knights immediately zeroed in on Davis as the one to stop.
“They came out with a diamond and one on BJ Davis,” said Crusader head coach Brice Fantazia of Davis, who averages about 16 points per game. He was limited to just 10 points. “(It’s) a little bit of a quirky defense. It kinda threw our guys off.”
The Crusaders adapted.
While Prince Oseya only scored five points, he dominated defensively with 17 rebounds and six blocks. Freshman Rashod Cotton scored six points, including a huge three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
Senior Jalen Brown came into his own.
“I told him, them doing a diamond and one on BJ is a little disrespectful to (Brown),” said Fantazia. “He kind of made them pay for it.”
Brown scored 16 points and afterward said, “I just want to get my teammates the ball and make smart plays. Scoring comes last.”
Through the first three quarters, Modesto Christian maintained the lead, though Downey kept inching closer. At the start of the fourth, what had once been a 10-point lead was now just a three-point difference, 32-29.
After two 3-pointers by Lloyd French, the game's top scorer with 20 points, Downey tied MC with 5:35 left in the game. A minute later, senior Jorden Lewis pushed Downey into the lead for the first time.
MC took the lead back with two 3-pointers of their own in a row, one by Cotton and the next by Davis. Oseya finished out the game with a successful free throw.
“We always have Holiday Hoops circled,” stated Fantazia. “We’ve only won it four times in 22 years, so the goal is always to win it. We treat it like a playoff game, we treat each round like a playoff game. So we’re onto the second round.”
Davis is already looking beyond the tournament. When asked about his goals for his senior season, he immediately said, “Definitely state championships. We just got to take it day by day, week by week.”
Samantha Schmidt is a freelance photographer and reporter with FrontRowPreps.com. Her work has also been featured in the Turlock Journal and other Central Valley publications.