SALIDA — Isaiah Burse wore a scowl into the locker room Tuesday night, clearly disappointed with the effort he saw in the first half.
Sure, Modesto Christian led by six points at halftime, but the Crusaders were being confounded by a slender freshman from tiny Orland.
"Isaiah could see some of the kids weren't working as hard as they should have, so he let them know about it," MC coach Gary Porter said. "I like to see that. He's been here before and he knows nothing this time of year."
After a halftime reminder from Burse, the Crusaders came out firing in the second half for a 104-79 victory in their Northern California Division 4 playoff opener.
Burse, who has become as much a den mother as he is an on-court coach, led by example with 25 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
"Isaiah, like the rest of the kids, is very competitive on the court and he wants everyone at their best," Porter said. "He knew it shouldn't have been a six-point lead."
Orland's Jud Sailsbery, a 5-foot-10 shooter who developed his skills playing for the Chico-based Blazing Heat AAU team, hit four treys in the first half.
He finished with 25 points and six treys, both career highs, and only Burse had a more impressive evening.
"Those guys know how to run and put the ball in the hole," said Sailsbery, 6 of 10 on 3-point shots. "Once I got in the flow of the game, the 3-pointers started to come."
After a lethargic first half, freshman Raymond Bowles got things rolling by scoring the first eight points of the second half. He sandwiched a pair of treys around a fast-break layup — courtesy of a Burse pass — to extend the 46-40 lead to 54-40. The Crusaders were just getting going on the way to a 34-point period, good for an 80-59 lead.
Burse, as he has done for the last few weeks, doubled as the primary scorer and ballhandler. He hit 12 of his 22 shots from the floor, including a trey, and was good on six of his final eight shots.
He was one of six Crusaders in double figures, a list that featured Brandon Baker scoring 16 on 7 of 8 shooting while coming off the bench. Six-foot-5 Anthony Pratt had 15 points and 12 rebounds, while starters Derek Evans (11 points, nine rebounds) Alden Wampler (12 points) and Bowles (10 points) scored 19 of their combined 33 points in the second half.
"Anthony played well, though he got in foul trouble or you would have seen more," said Porter, whose club shot 43 of 87 (49 percent) from the floor. "Baker made some nice plays inside, and Derek played well. Everyone will need to realize that this is a different season and we need to be ready to go from the start."
The Crusaders came out of the locker room lackadaisical and played that way — defensively, at least, throughout the first half.
Though shorter and slower, the Trojans repeatedly slashed into the key and scored easy layups on inbounds plays under the basket. Orland also outrebounded MC 25-19 in the first half and, with Pratt sitting with fouls, was able to establish an inside game with 6-4 Stephen Batchelder (18 points, 12 rebounds).
The next time MC takes the court, it won't be facing a runner-up from the Northern Section, but North Coast Section power Arcata (26-5) and 6-foot-11, 230-pound Max Schmidt. It tips off Thursday at 7:30 p.m., after the second-seeded girls (27-4) host No. 7 Justin-Siena of Napa (28-4).
MC's tallest player is Pratt, who has grown accustomed to facing taller foes. Porter, for one, is happy his team will still be at home.
"It's always nice to be at home, though it's not going to help you get any calls, you could see that," said Porter, whose faster, more athletic Crusaders were somehow called for 19 fouls compared with 10 for the Trojans.