SACRAMENTO -- With nine seconds remaining, the outcome of the Modesto Christian-Argonaut game had been decided by nine seconds short of three quarters.
But there still was time for both teams to make a statement, and in this case it was a gesture of mutual respect.
Argonaut coach Mel White called for a time out just to get junior guard Alyssa Cabri into the game.
Cabri, who also was introduced as a starter for the Mustangs, was in no condition to play, having suffered a knee injury in the Mustangs' semifinal victory Wednesday against Colfax.
As she limped onto the court and took a position on the baseline, MC coach Robb Spencer immediately recognized what was about to happen and instructed his girls to not guard Cabri -- to let her take any shot she wanted.
The full-court pass came to Cabri. She took one dribble toward the basket, rose ... and passed to a teammate.
"She didn't take the shot and I knew she wouldn't," White said.
Amidst the 46 total turnovers and often ragged play in the Crusaders' 64-39 victory in Saturday's section title game was a huge dose of mutual respect. No talking, no glares, no extra shoving.
It was as if these teams were more friends than rivals. Which, in this situation, is exactly the case.
The top three scorers on Argonaut's team -- sisters Lauren and Erin Godde and Cabri -- all played for Spencer's Modesto Magic AAU team in previous summers, which means they've shared a lot of court time with the MC players.
"It's fun playing against them because I've played with them and they're my friends," said Lauren Godde, who led the Mustangs with 18 points and eight rebounds. "I've gotten a lot of experience playing with the Modesto Magic and I wish I would have started playing for Robb earlier. But I still wish we could have won today."
During the last two summers, Cabri and the Goddes have made the 80-minute one-way drive to Modesto twice a week for practice, then were off each weekend for another tournament.
"They were there as full-fledged members," Spencer said. "They were never late and always were staying after to help pick up equipment, which shows a lot about their character and the commitment of their parents."
And in the fall, when the girls returned to wearing Argonaut's green and gold, White has seen the improvement they've made from the exposure to competition.
"The girls come back with a different aggressiveness," White said. "They're stepping up into a competition level that we don't see in our area.
"It's just a different mentality and they get used to a different physicality of the game because of what they've gone through in Robb's program."
The success of the Modesto Magic program means that more girls from outside the Modesto area have sought out the program to develop their talents and to be seen by college coaches during the summer.
"I've been blessed to have built good relationships with everybody in the area -- the coaches and the players -- and that's all I care about," Spencer said. "I don't care about anything else but giving the girls in our area a chance to be successful. If I can help, then I'm going to."
But at the end of Saturday's game, Spencer was helpless. He wanted Cabri to take and make the shot.
"She was one of our kids, and I know it meant a lot to her to be able to be introduced as a starter and to be able to come into the game at the end," Spencer said.