State

Tall Order: MC's Pratt faces another big challenge in Arcata's 6-10 center

SALIDA — It should be business as usual tonight for Anthony Pratt, Modesto Christian's slender 6-foot-5 center: He will be giving up inches and pounds to his opponent.

Pratt and the Crusaders are accustomed to playing taller teams, using their quickness and attacking offense to overcome the size disadvantage.

They haven't faced a team like Arcata, which has a 6-10 center and is capable of towering over MC at every position. That's the challenge tonight, when MC (23-8) hosts Arcata (26-5) in a NorCal Division 4 quarterfinal at 7:30.

Pratt outplayed Colfax's 6-9 center in the Sac-Joaquin Section final, held his own vs. Sacramento's 6-11 Robert Garret and battled Ripon Christian's 6-9 Tyler Goslinga in Trans-Valley League play.

The key for MC, particularly its frontcourt, has been to hold its own for 2-plus quarters and then use superior depth to pull away in the fourth.

Before they take the court, though, MC's girls (27-4) face Justin-Siena (28-4) in a regional quarterfinal at 6. MC was in the state final a year ago.

Arcata would have no hope of staying with MC in a track meet, but that's not the game that the Tigers are expecting.

"It's unusual for us to have such (an advantage), so we go inside then outside on offense whenever possible," said coach Eric Vollmers, whose team scores 60 a game and allows just 44. "If we can get an easy basket, we'll run, but we're not going to get into the game that MC is probably wanting to play."

While the tallest players in MC's primary rotation are 6-6 Brandon Baker and Pratt, Arcata has a pair of 6-6 guards — Jordan Semple (18 ppg) and Tom Witzel. The frontcourt is big and wide with 6-5, 230-pounders Noah Wheeler and Ryan DeHart — who put the power in power forward.

One of Pratt's roles is to defend 6-10 Max Schmidt, who comes off the bench and does his scoring under the basket. His size could pose a problem for the Crusaders — who love to penetrate for quick layups.

The star of this team, however, is the agile Semple. He's capable to hitting the 3-pointer or driving to the basket before pulling up for a jumper.

"We played Palma the other night and he did a great job defending their top guy, the league MVP," Vollmers said.

Semple is one of four players scoring in double figures.

"We're usually knocked out in the second or third round of section playoffs, usually by a Catholic school," Vollmers said. "By this time, it seems like that's all who is playing."

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

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