SALIDA — In an intense and sometimes-chippy showdown between two of the top boys basketball teams in Northern California, Modesto Christian’s depth and energy prevailed against Manteca and its towering trio of standouts.
The Crusaders led wire to wire and used a 16-3 burst in the second half to pull away for a 59-43 victory in the second round of their 16th annual Holiday Hoop Classic on Monday. Manteca (9-1) is ranked seventh by NorCalPreps with Modesto Christian (8-1) checking in at 11.
The Buffaloes trailed 36-34 after 6-foot-9 Nevada-bound power forward Kenny Wooten hit two free throws with 2:26 remaining. Reserve forward Nico Rojas’ last-second put-back in the third pushed Modesto Christian’s lead to 41-34, and Robinson Idehen took it from there. The impressive 6-10 native of Spain accounted for six straight Crusaders points during their back-breaking run, including an electrifying alley-oop slam in transition set up by Jay Chen’s off-the-backboard pass.
Robinson finished with 16 points and three blocks despite sitting most of the game with foul trouble. He was one of three Modesto Christian starters to finish with four fouls, the others being 6-4 Joshtin Dawkins (eight points, three assists) and Lathrop resident Christian Ellis (11 points, 10 rebounds, four assists). Chen contributed 10 points, and Rojas ended with eight points and five boards.
“We have four players that don’t start but can come in and do the same job as the starters,” Ellis said. “It really does help the team when you have that kind of bench to where there is no (drop off). It kept everyone fresh and our energy level stayed high.”
Manteca had its best stretch in the middle of the third, countering a 7-0 run with nine unanswered points in 3 minutes, 10 seconds.
The Buffaloes could only keep up for so long as the Crusaders continued to make them work past their high-energy defense. They did well to answer Modesto Christian’s earlier threats to break it open, after trailing 12-4 at one point in the opening period at 36-25. Dawkins punctuated MC’s 7-0 rally to start the second half with a breakaway dunk, but Manteca was able to counter with nine unanswered points over the next 3 minutes, 10 seconds.
Manteca coach Brett Lewis said effort played more of a factor than fatigue from that point forward.
“They just wanted it more, I feel,” Lewis said. “I don’t think our guys were tired. If we rolled the ball out right now these guys would be ready to go again.”
Manteca’s three top players were also handcuffed by foul trouble throughout. Tydus Verhoeven led the team with 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks before fouling out in the final minute. Wooten, tagged for three fouls, racked up 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
The rest of the Buffaloes combined for just 15 points, two coming from 6-9 forward Anand Hundal. Dwight Young was limited to nine points after erupting for 25 in Saturday’s first-round win over Freedom. Frankie Lopez, who canned five 3-pointers Saturday, was held scoreless. Manteca made just one of it 10 3-point attempts and shot 31 percent from the field overall Monday night, but the emphasis was to establish its skilled big man in the paint.
“We strongly feel Anand is our No. 1 option on offense, and with him not scoring that’s a big part of the problem tonight,” Lewis said. “He hasn’t been in foul trouble all year.”
Manteca squares off with Centennial (3-7) of Bakersfield at 4:30 tonight, while Modesto Christian faces Salesian (7-3), ranked 16th in NorCal, in the semifinals at 6. The Pride of Richmond drubbed Centennial 71-52 on Monday. Modesto Christian is looking to win its own tournament for the first time since 2005.
Long Beach Poly 72, Weston Ranch 49
The Jackrabbits (6-4) had their way with Weston Ranch (8-2) in a surprising rout.
Long Beach Poly’s considerable size advantage proved to be the difference, as 6-9 John Duff accumulated 15 points and 16 rebounds, while 6-6 Zafir Williams had 14 and 21.
Jaelen Ragsdale and Fred Lavender collected 20 and 14 points for the Cougars, who were outrebounded 60-32 and trailed 38-14 at halftime. They’ll next take on El Camino Real (5-5) of Woodland Hills starting at 3 today, while Long Beach Poly meets Immanuel (6-2) of Reedley.