ESCALON -- These aren't the same kind of kids Modesto Christian used to send out to rout Trans-Valley League foes even last year, but it's still a talented group.
"We don't have the one guy who will score 20 and get double-digit rebounds even when he has a bad night," assistant coach Bobby Cole said. "We can't rely on that one player."
The only Division I recruit is Isaiah Burse, and he's going to Fresno State on a football scholarship.
There's no dominant frontcourt player like Reeves Nelson (UCLA), no ballhandler like D.J. Seeley (Cal), no sure-shot like Adrian Oliver (San Jose State) and no passer like Michael Porter (Kentucky).
That hasn't brought an end to MC's dominance in the TVL, not if Friday was an indication. The Crusaders sent waves of players into the game, and their fresh legs began to wear down Escalon late in the first half during an 84-58 win.
The Crusaders (13-8, 6-0) have won 70 straight league games dating back to 1996 (from 2000-06, MC was an independent and didn't play in a conference), and they've got four more TVL games this year before the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs begin.
"What's different about this team is that we have 13 players, and there's not much difference between the first 12," said Cole, who was in charge since coach Gary Porter was out ill. "Because there is that competition for playing time, you see every kid play hard."
That includes Hayden Lee, the 6-foot-6½ center who had eight points, five offensive rebounds and three blocks. He altered a few more, as well.
"We all have roles and mine is to get as many rebounds as I can, and turn them into baskets," Lee said. "We know we will get everyone's best game in league, so if we have an off night, we could lose a game."
MC got production from 12 players, with 6-2 junior forward Derek Evans scoring 12 and 6-3 senior forward Alden Wampler hitting three treys to account for his nine points. Toss in nine by 6-6 junior Brandon Baker, three by 6-5 Anthony Pratt and seven by 6-2 freshman guard Raymond Bowles, and you get an idea of why Cole is excited.
"We've played other Division 4 teams, like Colfax during the summer league, and we think we are still the team to beat," said Cole, whose Crusaders have won 10 straight section crowns. "It's a different team, and playing a different way, but we're still MC."
The game stayed close for much of the first half, and Escalon was within 26-24 after Spencer Franceschetti drove for a layup and added a free throw after being fouled. The Crusaders closed out the half on a 15-4 run for a 41-28 lead.
"We played them well until I had to sit a few of my big guys because of fouls," Escalon coach Martin Louro said. "I believe we can beat them, and our gameplan was going well for a while. It takes a full 32 minutes to beat them, and we couldn't do that tonight."