State

Modesto Christian hopes hard work equals state title

The folks at Modesto Christian believe a state girls' basketball title has been a long time coming, and they've got a chance to get it Saturday.

It would be the ultimate reward for coach Robb Spencer, who has created a dynasty at the small private school since arriving nine seasons ago.

Of course, the folks at Mater Dei of Chula Vista believe the same thing: A state crown would validate the years of hard work coach David Monroe has put into the program.

There will be no shortage of emotion at Arco Arena on Saturday when the teams tip off at 9:30 a.m. to decide the state Division IV championship.

Despite their combined success, only one time has either played for a state title -- MC and Paris twins Courtney and Ashley lost 53-49 to La Jolla Country Day and Candice Wiggins in the 2002 D-V final.

No one knew it at the time, but the game featured two future California Players of the Year: Wiggins in 2004 and Courtney Paris the next year.

This year's game won't feature such a spectacular showdown -- MC point guard Brandi Henton could be a Ms. Basketball candidate next year, while Mater Dei has an all-senior starting lineup -- but it could be just as competitive.

Mater Dei has three players averaging 14 points or better per game, led by 6-foot-1-inch center Soulijah Evans (14 ppg) and 5-6 point guard Jhazmine Lynch (15 ppg), but they don't get much help off the bench.

In the regional final, Mater Dei's bench played 11 minutes -- no reserve was on the court for more than three -- and didn't provide a point, rebound, assist or a steal.

While Mater Dei believes it will benefit from having five seniors on the court, MC's betting that its ability to rotate eight players and a fast-paced game will give it the edge.

Eight players got at least nine minutes in the 62-57 overtime win in the Northern California final. MC's top three reserves played a total of 46 minutes, combining for 11 points, 14 rebounds and five steals.

Depth was crucial in overtime, as MC finished the game with an 8-1 run while running St. Mary's of Berkeley into the ground.

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