The Modesto City Classic has a more competitive look this season: Gone is the jamboree-style format that didn't produce a champion and denied us of some good games.
The best teams will be playing the best teams this year, as the tournament has adopted a traditional format that will end Saturday night with a title game at Enochs High.
The Modesto Metro Conference went 3-0 at Downey High during Wednesday's opening night of the 16-team tourney, though one of the wins carries an asterisk — Downey's opponent failed to show up.
Davis rallied late to beat East Union 70-67, and Modesto pulled away from Buhach Colony for a 71-57 win. Modesto had an eight-point edge from the free-throw line, 17-9.
Downey's forfeit win gave the Knights a free pass into Thursday's quarterfinal against Modesto — we get to see if the Panthers can carry their success during football over to the court this winter.
Davis played Golden Valley in the other semifinal, while EU had Central Valley. Buhach drew a bye into tonight's 5 p.m. game at Downey.
Power forward Kory Johnson was huge inside for Davis, scoring 22 points and converting a number of offensive rebounds. Guard Donte Walker had four 3-pointers on his way to 20 points, and forward Lance Castaneda went inside for his eight points and helped rebound.
EU was led by freshman guard Jordan Kron, who a few weeks ago was leading a USA national baseball team to a Pan-Am championship in Latin America. He had 23 points, hitting seven 3-pointers, while junior Teejay Gordon had 16 points. EU showed it has balance with Ricky Inderbitzin (10 points, seven rebounds) and Robert Vaughn (10 points, five rebounds).
Golden Valley enjoyed its opener, with Rob Martinez (14 points) and Trek Fayerweather (12) combining for 26 points in a 61-41 win over Central Valley. Martinez and Fayerweather each hit two trey.
It was close through three quarters, with GV clinging to a 39-37 lead before exploding for 22 points in the fourth quarter for the 20-point win.
Johansen won its city tournament opener at Enochs, as Derek Singer scored 16 points in a 60-55 win over Ceres. The Vikings went ahead during a 17-10 second quarter, and John Dhillion (13 points) and Beau Pimental (12) weren't enough to get Ceres the win.
Elsewhere, Brandon Rogers (17 points) and Chase Gonzalez (11) kept Turlock Christian within striking distance through three quarters, but Elliot Christian was too much and used a 20-13 fourth quarter for a 66-55 win. ...
Guillermo Ramirez made sure the Delhi Hawks had a good time, scoring 23 points in the 53-32 win over Venture Academy. The Hawks got in front early and pushed their lead to 27-14 by halftime, as Jose Hernandez (12 points) and Oscar Borg (10, 7 assists) made sure Ramirez had plenty of support. Oscar Pimental stayed busy under the basket with eight rebounds.
The Hawks' press was too much to handle, and it turned into 18 fast-break points off of turnovers. Borg hit Ramirez for eight straight points in the first half on a 13-0 run. ...
Bret Harte (1-0) had a wild one against Vacaville Christian, but survived for an 85-82 victory thanks to Martin De Anda (29 points) and Anthony Ballard (24).
The Escalon Lions Club Tournament is always a nice tip-off to the season, and the host Cougars fell 48-43 to Denair. Argonaut and Summerville won lopsided games over Downey 63-16 and Delta 57-17, respectively, while Redwood Christian beat Riverbank 32-11.
The tournament wraps up tonight with four games at Escalon, including an 8 p.m. final. ...
Ripon's volleyball team just finished its season Tuesday with a loss in the Northern California Division 5 final, but the Indians had plenty to celebrate Wednesday as Rachel Rodriguez (12 points) and Hanna Allen (10) combined for 22 points in a 41-26 win over Sierra. The Timberwolves got some nice performances from Jaslynn Liotard (nine points, six rebounds, three steals) and Stephanie Vanni (four assists, four steals)
"Ripon jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead and stretched it to 25-7 by halftime. We were getting hustle and good shots in the second quarter, but shots wouldn't fall," Sierra's Stephan Unterholzner said. "We got things together a bit in the third quarter and closed the gap to 11 by early in the fourth, but couldn't muster enough to get all the way back.
"All in all, I was happy with the way the girls hung in the game and refused to give, even down by more than 20 near the end of the second quarter ... they got tough. We just had dug too big of a hole to get out of." ...
Madeline Birchall (19 points, 8 rebounds) was able to keep Hughson close for a while, but eventually Atwater and Patience Madayag (19 points) wore the Huskies down and pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 62-47 win. ...
Cassie Coble scored nine of 18 points in the fourth quarter Thursday as Patterson pulled away from Beyer 39-35 in the Golden Valley Tournament. The Tigers finished the game on a 9-2 run. ...
Brandi Henton has led the way offensively and defensively for the Modesto Christian girls with two victories at the La Jolla Country Day Tournament.
The Crusaders opened their season with a 58-42 decision over Windward of Ferndale on Wednesday, then came back with a 72-45 win over Bishop Gorman on Thursday.
Henton scored 32 points Thursday, including five 3-pointers, and helped stop point guard Erin Ellenberg, who has committed to Oklahoma. Ellenberg was held to four points against Modesto Christian after scoring 30 in Bishop's first game Wednesday.
"Brandi and (Marina) McKeever just shut her down," coach Robb Spencer said. "That was our goal, to just take her out of the game."
Modesto Christian plays host La Jolla Country Day at in today's 6:15 p.m. semifinal.