Here's the challenge for virtually all high school basketball coaches in early December: Would you rather bring along your team via practices, or throw your players onto the court and check their progress in games?
The answer is both, of course, as long as there's time for both. But balancing out games and practices can be a dicey proposition in December, tournament month.
Knowing this, the Modesto High girls basketball team probably wouldn't mind a few days in the gym with coach Pete Peterson. Modesto (3-3) concluded a five-games-in-six-days rip Tuesday night with a 57-53 win over Sonora (2-3) at Panther Palace.
Modesto is anchored by nonstop senior Jessica Rodriguez, who does a little bit of everything. She scored 15 points before she fouled out during Monday night's 62-56 loss at East Union, a signal that Rodriguez is getting serious about her farewell season. The Panthers will rest, for one day, and then begin the Crusader Classic on Thursday.
East Union (2-0), the three-time reigning Valley Oak League champion, lacks the backcourt quickness it enjoyed before Rachel McDaniel and Ashley Rose graduated. The Lancers' next star, however, could be junior Lexy Posz, a hard-working forward who doesn't mind diving onto the floor for the ball. She had 24 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five steals vs. Modesto. Johansen (6-2), which fell to Pitman 52-34, goes to East Union tonight.
The Vikings took part in the inaugural Central California Conference-Modesto Metro Conference Challenge at Cal State University, Stanislaus. Turlock, anchored by Nicole Serpa's 17 points and 9-of-10 from the free throw line, defeated Enochs 64-35 in the other game at Warrior Arena. It is hoped that all CCC and MMC teams take part in this event in the future.
Other nuggets from Tuesday night: Los Banos used 26 points by Brianna Harden to stop Downey 64-54 despite 22 points by Ayuana Palmore; Central Valley was competitive during its 47-40 loss to Atwater, but coach Jesse Padilla lamented his team's 5-of-22 free-throw shooting; Cassanda Clark, a standout on Oakdale's team a year ago, totaled 14 points as the Mustangs (4-1) stopped Ripon Christian 53-35; and Patterson rallied from a 9-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 59-53 win over Manteca, thanks to Cassie Coble's 23 points (12 during the comeback).
Turlock Christian is the host for the Central Valley 7-Up Tournament to be held Thursday through Saturday at Calvary Baptist in Turlock. First-round games Thursday: Central Valley vs. Livingston at 3 p.m., Escalon vs. Orestimba at 4:30, Summerville vs. Brookside Christian at 6, and Ripon Christian vs. Turlock Christian at 7:30. TC tuned up for its tournament with an 83-38 win over Elliot Christian. Halie Bergman had 30 points and 11 rebounds.
For those who checked the bracket of the 16-team Modesto City Classic last weekend at Enochs, you probably thought Downey's entry in two games Saturday was an error.
Indeed, the Knights (1-4) thrust themselves into a pair of games in the championship outbracket, defeating Lathrop 52-31 and losing 60-45 to Johansen. Downey coach Doug Streeter and other tournament organizers were forced to adjust their brackets after Lutheran's first-round no-show. All teams eventually played their four games, not bad for a 16-team hoops carnival.
Two of the more successful teams at the City Classic labored through tough games Tuesday night. Grace Davis, which lost to Manteca in the final, gradually fell off the pace in the fourth quarter and lost at home to Turlock 61-51. Kory Johnson (19 points, 5 rebounds) and Lance Castaneda (10 points, 14 rebounds), both all-tournament selections, continued their good play for the Spartans. At Merced, third-place winner Modesto (3-3) was victimized by a relentless Merced attack and was beaten by the Bears 88-59.
More highlights from Tuesday night: Riverbank eased past Gustine 87-44 behind Jose Moreno's 15 points and double-digit scoring from four teammates; Sierra notched 22 fourth-quarter points to edge Lodi 57-55 thanks to 22 points and four triples by Trevor Nogueira; Big Valley Christian pushed its lead to 20 points en route to a 64-51 win over Stoneridge Christian as sophomore center Jon McCall recorded his first double-double (14 points, 17 rebounds); Pitman rallied in the fourth quarter for a 45-41 win at Sonora despite 18 points by the Wildcats' Alex Kiriluk; Hilmar held Atwater to two points in the second period and won 48-45; Matt Ratto's 18 points, 16 while Ripon jumped to a 31-22 halftime lead, led the Indians over Oakdale 52-35; and Johansen, up 17-5 after the first quarter, stopped Stagg 62-46.
The best game, however, may have taken place at River City, where Calaveras and the Raiders shed blood. Players from both sides reportedly left the game with cuts, including the Redskins' Tony Romero (21 points) who exited with about 3:30 left with a a one-inch gash over his left eye courtesy of an inadvertent elbow. Without its leading scorer, Calaveras lost its lead but recovered to win 62-61 on a clutch play in the final 10 seconds: Junior Cody Freeman lobbed a pass to senior Jake Fischer, who made the catch and hit a twisting one-hander for the hoop and the eventual game-winner.