It's rare that Modesto Christian's basketball teams are underdogs, but both are lower seeds heading into today's Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV finals. Everyone knows MC's stars — UCLA-bound Reeves Nelson, and the girls' Brandi Henton and Taryn Garza — but here are a handful of players who could decide today's finals.
Johnny Hutton, sr. — The 6-foot-4-inch forward (17 ppg, seven rpg) struggles against quicker foes but is dangerous near the hoop because he has width to go with height. If Christian Brothers over-defends Reeves Nelson, Hutton needs to deliver one of his 20-point efforts.
Isaiah Burse, jr. — The 6-foot point guard (six ppg, four assists, two steals) saved MC's semifinal win with penetrating drives and his quickness on defense. He needs to keep guard Martin Harris (26 in semifinal win) in check and keep CB more worried about Burse's quick hands than getting the ball into its big men.
Marcus Butler, jr. — The 6-4 junior (seven ppg, two steals) had the key stop and the game-clinching free throws in the semifinal. He also let himself get tied up with the ball and lost a late-game possession, however, so he's still learning. He will have plenty of opportunities to shoot 14-foot jumpers as the defense drapes Nelson — and he'll need to make them.
Lauren Lucchesi, sr. — The 6-footer is among the region's most improved (10 ppg, seven rpg), adding an offensive game to complement her rebounding and defense. She won't draw the defensive attention that senior forward Taryn Garza does, so she'll need to convert put-backs and be prepared to rip stray rebounds out of the hands of her foes.
Stefani Agostini, sr. — The 5-8 wing (eight ppg, 2.7 assists) had a breakout semifinal, hitting a section-playoff record eight treys. She nailed four in the first-round win, so Agostini has found her stroke — averaging 14 points the last six games — after an erratic regular season. If she hits a few early treys, Linden will have to extend its defense and leave gaps under the basket.
Marinna McKeever, jr. — The 5-6 guard is never going to score much (three ppg, two steals, two assists), but she needs to consistently swing the ball on the perimeter and make crisp entry passes to Lucchesi, Garza and 6-foot Danielle Thompson. Linden's priority is stopping PG Brandi Henton, and McKeever will need to be able to step in and take over some of the ballhandling duties.