State

MC guard not short on confidence

It wasn't the first time Isaiah Burse had been called out, but it certainly was one of the more public challenges that Modesto Christian's point guard has faced this season.

"We'll give up that shot any time to him," shouted Christian Brothers' coach Bill Benford, as Burse paused outside the 3-point arc. "Stay back."

As the defenders sagged on 6-foot-8-inch Reeves Nelson, Burse took a moment to spot his shot and fired a 21-footer.

Before Benford got another word out, Burse's shot sailed through the rim. It sparked a 23-7 run to finish the first half and send MC on the way to its record 10th consecutive title.

CB's plan was to give Burse any shot he wanted beyond 17 feet, assuming the junior was too erratic to be a real threat.

The trey forced the Falcons to get in Burse's face, though, a decision that proved fatal. When the Falcons confronted Burse, he blew past them and created even more problems.

"I'm pretty quick, so if they come out on me I'll try to get past them and into the key," said Burse, who had 15 points, five assists and six steals in Saturday's 92-63 win. "If I get inside, I keep going to the basket or find a teammate.

"It's a lose-lose for the defense. If someone leaves their man to pick me up, I've got an open teammate. If they don't pick me up, I've got a shot."

Burse's emergence the past month has not only produced fits for opposing coaches, it's pumped life into MC's attack.

He was the dominant point guard in the Division IV playoffs and the fast tempo he set allowed MC to come within a point of the section record for most points in a title game.

"If someone asks me what I do best, I think it's that I'm a team player," Burse said. "I love to push the ball because I know everyone on this team will be right there with me."

By now, the Crusaders have learned to never look away if the ball is in Burse's hands. He goes from the dribble to a pass without breaking stride.

Burse says playing quarterback -- a three-year starter, he has piled up 7,315 yards offense and 89 TDs -- has made him a better point guard.

"I'm used to seeing the field and making a quick call," he said. "There's not much time time to think when someone is coming at me, so I react."

His speed, packed in a firm 6-foot frame, was a luxury in the section playoffs. It's a requirement in the NorCal playoffs -- particularly if MC faces North Coast Section powers St. Mary's and Salesian.

St. Mary's was too quick for MC in last year's NorCal final and Salesian was too quick for MC when the two played this season. But neither team has seen the improved Burse.

He was an uncertain sophomore last season and was recovering from a football injury when MC was routed 69-44 by Salesian in December.

His absence contributed to the Crusaders losing eight of the season's first 11 games.

"This is where we've wanted to be, playing for a state title," Burse said. "This is a long way from that 3-8 start."

Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at restrada@modbee.com or 578-2300.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star

  Comments