TURLOCK -- Having to find a way to slow Kiwi Gardner and unbeaten Manteca with a third of his team in football pads a half hour away wasn't exactly the dream scenario for Modesto Christian boys basketball coach Gary Porter.
Luckily for Porter, the Crusaders' displayed the type of depth that could carry them far this season in an 87-73 victory Friday night that sent them into tonight's Frank Godinez Tournament championship game at Turlock High School.
MC plays the winner of Friday night's Turlock-Davis game for the tournament crown tonight at 8.
Four Crusaders players, including star guard Isaiah Burse, were unavailable because they were busy leading the MC football team to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 championship at Lincoln High School in Stockton.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
"We have a young team. With four guys still out playing football, especially Isaiah, I thought we did all right," Porter said. "We have a long way to go, but we're getting there.
"Thank goodness we've got depth."
Joesue Chew scored a team-high 17 points and Ryan Riner and Hayden Lee added 16 apiece for Modesto Christian, which survived a 30-point night from Gardner to improve to 2-1 on the season.
The game was tied at halftime, but Modesto Christian opened the second half with a 12-2 run and never looked back. Riner scored eight points during the run and finished with 11 points in the quarter to help the Crusaders assume control.
"Riner's a hard worker," Porter said of the Crusaders' 6-3 junior forward. "He practices hard and plays as hard as anybody. He had a real nice game."
Gardner, who dropped 52 points on Pitman last Friday night at the Modesto City Classic, scored 12 points in the first quarter, which ended with Manteca leading 20-17. But MC, particularly 6-foot-5 center Hayden Lee and 6-4 forward Anthony Pratt, clamped down on Gardner the final three quarters, forcing the Buffaloes' 5-9 guard to work hard for every shot and every point.
Gerry Cooper had 12 points and Ernie Pimentel 11 for Manteca.
Jimmy Escudero scored 11 points and Raymond Bowles added 10 for Modesto Christian.
PITMAN 62, BEYER 40 -- Dominic Romeo's game-high 24 points carried the Pride past the Patriots in Friday's Godinez opener. Dylan Albiani's 13 points paced Beyer.
VALLEY 80, CENTRAL VALLEY 40 -- Brian Blunt led the Hawks with 15 points and Greg Mathews scored 11 in a loss to the Sacramento-based Vikings, who got a game-high 22 points from Brandon Rowden.
ENOCHS 62, LIVERMORE 56, at Brentwood -- Scott Robertson's game-high 22 points led the Eagles (6-2) to victory. Herbert Whitehurst joined Robertson in double figures for Enochs with 10 points.
McCLATCHY 55, RIPON CHRISTIAN 42, at Galt -- Tyler Goslinga scored 16 points and Logan Vos 14 for the Knights in defeat. McClathy's Darius Bonney led all scores with 19.
RIVERBANK 51, DENAIR 40, at Denair -- Zack Gonzales scored 22 points, including three 3-pointers, to lead Bruins (5-1) to a victory over Coyotes (2-4). Alex Reynaga netted 14 and Manuel Jimenez tallied 11 for Riverbank, which benefited from 19 Denair turnovers. Colin Sosa was the only Denair player in double figures with 11 points.
JOHANSEN 74, SIERRA 63, at Johansen High -- Johansen survived a 24-point night from Sierra's Trevor Nogueira that included five 3-pointers and a 14-for-25 performance from the free-throw line as the Vikings beat the Timberwolves. Derek Singer scored a team-high 21 points for Johansen. Zeke Batt added 13 points and Jekiya Bradley chipped in 11.
HILMAR 58, HUGHSON 34, at Hilmar -- Noel Zaldana's 14 points and six steals led the Yellowjackets (3-2). Daniel Greenleaf scored 10 points for Hilmar, which outscored Hughson 18-2 in the opening quarter.