Modesto Christian has been through this for 13 years with its boys’ basketball teams — maintaining a level of excellence through an ever-changing cast of characters.
Each year, only the faces of the program change, from Jairol Red to Chuck Hayes, from Richard Midgley and David Paris to Michael Porter and Adrian Oliver, to Reeves Nelson.
But the same can be said for the more recent success of the girls’ program, and once this season is over, the face of the Crusaders’ girls program will change once again.
It won’t be easy, since the area’s fans have been watching Brandi Henton and Taryn Garza play together since they were freshmen, but in the middle of Wednesday’s 99-60 loss to St. Mary’s came a glimpse of the future identity of the program.
There was junior Danielle Thompson scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, sophomore Valerie Moore scoring six points with six rebounds junior transfer Alexus Tillman connecting on a 3-pointer.
Of the three, Thompson appears to be the one ready to emerge next year as the team’s leader.
“We keep talking about the face of the program and how it’s going to change, and Danielle and Moore will be the face when the seniors leave,” said MC coach Robb Spencer. Right now, Danielle does everything for us, both outside and inside.”
Mixed with the resignation of having lost a game by 39 points, albeit to USA Today’s No. 1 team in the nation, Thompson also carried the pride of having played well against the Rams, both as an individual and for her team.
“I think we played well, but once they got that lead we were never able to regroup like we normally can,” Thompson said.
The team’s downfall against St. Mary’s was similar to that in last year’s meeting, an 83-62 loss in Stockton in which the Crusaders committed 41 turnovers. They had “only” 30 turnovers in Wednesday’s rematch, many of them coming immediately after opening a 16-11 lead in the opening four minutes.
“We had good hopes and high spirits coming into this game, knowing that we were ready to come out and compete — to get after it on every play,” Thompson said. “It felt good to get up that quickly, then it was one big lapse.
“We made a lot of the same mistakes this year that we did last year at their place. But this is an improvement over last year.”
This is a series that both schools seem intent on keeping alive if they can decide on a time and date for next year’s game. With both schools needing to schedule games out of the area to find real competition, it sometimes can be difficult to find an open date on the schedule, and neither team likes to give up the revenues that home games can produce.
That’s why St. Mary’s coach Tom Gonsalves only reluctantly gave in to playing this return game at the tiny MC gym, at a place in the schedule with which he wasn’t entirely comfortable.
“This game really scared me,” Gonsalves said. “I was more nervous before this game tonight than I have been all year. We have a little break here between tough games, so after tonight I can think about giving rest to some of the girls and let them relax to refresh ourselves.
“But it was a great atmosphere in here tonight.”
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.