SACRAMENTO -- The discussion began late in the second quarter Saturday, just after Brandi Henton popped in the 3-pointer that gave Modesto Christian its 25-point lead.
Where does the dazzling senior guard, a four-year star who has improved her leadership and statistics each year, rank among the all-time best from the Stanislaus District?
"Brandi's got to be right up there," MC coach Robb Spencer said. "She's capable of doing so many things. I think of someone like (former Merced star) Deja Mann. She could do so many things, like Brandi."
While Mann struggled with injuries and never won a Sac-Joaquin Section title, Henton has stayed healthy and celebrated three championships.
She helped guarantee that third title by scoring 23 points and playing aggressive defense in a 64-39 rout of previously unbeaten Argonaut in the Division 4 final at Arco Arena.
Not only was Argonaut 30-0, its average margin of victory was 28 points and only three foes were within 10 points -- until Saturday. There was no aura of invincibility. That was evident moments into the game when Henton stole a ball and raced downcourt for a layup.
It was 2-0, and would never get any closer. It was 18-1 late in the quarter and, after Henton hit a trey with 2:30 left in the half, it ballooned to 30-5.
"These playoffs aren't easy, so Robb puts together a very difficult schedule that makes us work hard during the regular season," said Henton, The Bee's Player of the Year last season after scoring 16 points a game. "We're able to figure out our roles and weaknesses before the playoffs get here."
It was tough to pinpoint any weakness in the first half, as MC (27-4) outshot, outrebounded, outdefended and outran the Mustangs on the way to a 32-8 halftime lead.
Spencer, though, wasn't impressed: "I say we're average. We have a lot of work to do."
True, as the Crusaders are still trying to replace 5-10 forward Valerie Moore, lost to a torn ACL in the quarterfinal. Losing nine points and seven rebounds a game has brought about some shuffling of responsibility, and the biggest has been Henton's increased emphasis on scoring points.
She scored 98 points in four playoff games, going as high as 29 in a quarterfinal victory over Linden. She had 24 and 22 points in the other games.
Only five players have ever done better: Nevada Union's Kellie Cook is tops with 149 points, while two girls hit 99. Henton scored 221 points in 16 career playoff games, good for 10th on the all-time list. She knocks Davis' Ashley Walker (223) into 11th place.
Only two girls south of Sacramento have done better, and both are from St. Mary's: Jacki Gemelos (365 points) and Dominique Banks (272).
Spencer has pushed Henton all season to continue to push herself, but it's not just self-interest motivating the coach.
"Robb has been doing a lot of things that he knows I'll be doing next year in college," said Henton, who has signed with Long Beach State. "He's using a lot more sets, giving us different defenses, putting me in different roles. He's all about developing the player."
And he does it without giving a thought to the impact it might have on the Crusaders: Argonaut's stars -- 6-footers Erin and Lauren Godde, and guard Alyssa Cabri -- play on Spencer's travel team alongside many of the Crusaders.
Not surprisingly, the Godde sisters combined for 23 points and 16 rebounds. With Cabri sidelined by a knee injury suffered in Thursday's semifinal win over Colfax, though, the rest of the team scored 16.
MC's 5-11 Taryn Garza and 6-1 Danielle Thompson dominated their inside battle with the Goddes. They combined for 30 points and 17 rebounds -- and much of that production came early in the game.
"We play travel ball with the Goddes, so we know them inside and out," Henton said. "We also had a long defensive meeting on Friday. We put in a zone press to go with a trapping man. It's late, but Robb is still working us pretty hard."
Both teams are in the Northern California playoffs, with Spencer expecting MC to get a first-round bye before hosting a quarterfinal Thursday.
"Us or St. Mary's should be the No. 1 and 2 seeds, and we beat them last year, so I think we're No. 1," Spencer said.
The regional pairings will be announced this afternoon.