SALIDA -- A trip to Arco Arena at the end of every basketball season for the Modesto Christian High boys' and girls' basketball teams seems so predictable the Crusaders might consider it a birthright.
But when the two teams take to the home court of the Sacramento Kings today, both will do so with a different feel, since both come into their Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 finals with questions in their rotations.
The MC girls struggled for 32 minutes before beating Christian Brothers in Wednesday's semifinal game at Tokay High -- their first game without injured sophomore wing Valerie Moore.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders' boys got vastly different levels of performance from their platoons in Wednesday's win against Calaveras -- so much so that the senior starting five was pulled just 20 seconds into the second half.
In both cases adjustments will have been made before the MC girls (26-4) take on undefeated Argonaut (30-0) at 11:30 a.m. and the boys (21-8) tangle with Colfax (26-4) at 3 p.m.
"We weren't pleased at all with our performance," said girls' coach Robb Spencer. "This was our first game playing without Valerie, and that was a huge part of it.
"Then, you had (Brandi) Henton cramping up the whole second half and (Taryn) Garza fouling out at the start of the fourth. Other than that, we still got the win. It's hard to swallow right now, but we'll put things in perspective."
The impact of Moore's loss to a torn ACL in the second-round victory against Linden is impossible to quantify, since she did so many things for the team in addition to scoring and rebounding.
"She gets 10 points and eight rebounds, and then add the assists and the steals and all the activity like the deflections and the depth," Spencer said. "This was an eye-opener of what life will be like without her and what we have to work on."
It certainly means more of the scoring and rebounding will have to be done by Garza and Henton. The two Division I signees were up to the task against Christian Brothers, but then again Garza fouled out and Henton cramped up.
"Valerie is a great defensive player and she crashes the boards and has a nice shot," Garza said. "We're used to having that, and without her we just really have to step it up now. We really missed her. We still have to play what we know, and that's team ball. We have to get it done no matter how."
Spencer partly attributed Henton's cramping to having to perform added duties with Moore out, and is hoping it's a one-time ailment.
"I've never seen her cramp before," Spencer said. "I guess she didn't get enough fluids in her before the game so she had to learn that lesson the hard way.
"She better be drinking enough the next two days, but on the other hand I'm sure she was giving more energy without Valerie in there. Everybody has to."
Boys' coach Gary Porter went to the platoon system shortly after the Crusaders went winless in four games in its own holiday tourney. To call that a failure would be an understatement, since never before had MC lost a first-round game in that event.
The move was prompted by the fact that for the first time in 10 years there is no sure-fire Division I basketball prospect among the upperclassmen.
Wednesday, the younger group prevailed, much to the chagrin of the older five upon getting 20 seconds of playing time at the start of the third quarter.
"That was very quick and I had to get on a couple of the kids for talking back to me after they were pulled," Porter said. "Then, for my young guards the game maybe was a little bit physical, but they responded OK."
Porter's goal with the system is to make sure one of the fives -- either the senior-laden starters or the second five of three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman -- can bring the necessary energy on a given night to ensure victory.
But he hinted after the game that there might be more mixing of players both today and as the Crusaders enter the NorCal regionals. Fans saw a little of that on Wednesday when senior Isaiah Burse played several second-half minutes with freshman Raymond Bowles.
It could mean that the two-platoon system might start looking more like an 11-man rotation -- a decision that could be made on the fly and based on the energy the starting five brings to the floor.
"I'll probably start doing different things now and start narrowing down some things," Porter said. "You'll see more of the Burse-Bowles combination with the guards. I just have to go with the high energy, and whichever team brings it that night is the team I'll go with."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.