LODI — The section semifinal round is where jitters rule.
In the Sac-Joaquin Section, it's the round where a good performance earns you both a trip to Arco Arena and the regional tournament, and also the round where a bad performance can instantly end a season.
Stefani Agostini admits to being nervous before Wednesday's game. The Modesto Christian senior didn't want her high school career to end at Tokay High, and she did something about it — connecting on a section playoff record eight 3-pointers and scoring 26 points in a 76-30 trouncing of Argonaut.
"I was nervous because if we lost we were done and we would go on with a win, so you just have to come in ready to play," Agostini said. "All of us were focused on getting to Arco."
The Crusaders (23-7) will meet the winner of Wednesday's late game — a contest between Linden and Christian Brothers. The Division IV title game is set for noon Saturday at Arco Arena.
Agostini had six 3-pointers and 20 points in the first half as Modesto Christian rolled to a 42-14 halftime lead. It wasn't a shock that the Crusaders were winning the game, but the margin was quite stunning.
After all, the Mustangs came in with a 26-3 record and the section's No. 3 seed (MC was seeded No. 7). Argonaut was averaging almost 60 points per game and had scored 49 or more points in each of their first 29 games.
And they came in with what seemed like a good defensive game plan: stop guard Brandi Henton from penetrating and keep Lauren Lucchesi and Taryn Garza from dominating inside. That's where Argonaut focused its defense, leaving Agostini free to wander the perimeter.
She had her first two 3-pointers in a 14-0 run that gave MC a 16-5 lead late in the first quarter. Four more in the second quarter, including two in a half-ending 13-0 run over the final 2:34.
"They wouldn't get a hand in her face," said MC coach Robb Spencer. "You pick your poison when you play us. Teams all year have been shading their defense in her direction and it's been tough for her to get shots. But she's one of the best shooters in the valley."
Agostini tied the section record with her seventh 3-pointer, set by Nevada Union's Kellie Cook in 1991, then broke it with her eighth — a shot from beyond the top of the key with 3:20 remaining. It made the score 68-28 and caused the rest of the game to be played with a running clock.
Henton finished with 15 points, Daniele Thompson had 11 off the bench and Lucchesi scored 10 for MC. The Godde twins — junior forwards Erin and Lauren — scored 10 points apiece for Argonaut, which only once in the game managed to score back-to-back baskets.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.