At three different times in Monday’s Modesto Christian at St. Mary’s of Stockton boys basketball game, the host Rams tied up the visiting Crusaders with most inside Morelli Gym very aware of what might be at stake. State No. 20 Modesto Christian, however, still prevailed 89-80 and extended its state record league win streak to 189 games.
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For most of the years of Modesto Christian’s state record 189-game league win streak in boys basketball, the Crusaders have faced little competition from schools in their league, which used to be organized mostly by school enrollment and to keep all of Modesto Christian’s teams in the same league.
These days, though, adding more competitive equity to league realignments plus more and more schools having teams in different leagues because of those factors, the Modesto Christian league win streak is going to be threatened more frequently. It was last year in a game against Beyer of Modesto and with the team now in the even tougher Tri-City Athletic League with the likes of St. Mary’s (Stockton), Lincoln (Stockton), Tracy, Lodi and others, it was thought that the toughest challenge to that streak this year would come on Monday night when head coach Brice Fantazia took his squad to St. Mary’s.
Facing a St. Mary’s team that went to the CIF NorCal D2 final last season and returned several key players, including three-year 6-foot-7 senior starter Bryce Johnson, the Crusaders did indeed get that test. It didn’t seem like it for most of the night as Modesto Christian led 32-24 at the half, extended its lead to 48-35 by the end of the third quarter and led by as many as 18 points. But the Rams got their home crowd rocking with a 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter and had the score tied at 69-69, 71-71 and 73-73.
At that point, with 2:06 left in the game, senior Dathan Satchell came through for the Crusaders by making his sixth 3-pointer for a 76-73 lead. Then came a steal and lay-up by junior Michael Pearson for a five-point lead and from then on it was a case of the Rams mostly playing the foul ’em and hope they miss free throw strategy. Modesto Christian made its free throws and went on for a 89-80 victory.
The two teams will play again later in the league schedule, but that game will be at Modesto Christian. And based on how the other teams in the league have looked so far this season, that will probably be the only chance for the Modesto Christian league win streak, which began in the mid-1990s, will be broken.
That assessment also is based on how the Crusaders looked on Monday night. With their size, experience, depth and emergence of a scorer like Satchell plus the deadly 3-point shooting of freshman Devin Dye, it’s easy to see how they recently pushed current state No. 5, nationally ranked and unbeaten Salesian of Richmond to overtime and have left the imprint of a stinker loss to Campolindo of Moraga at their own tournament as more of a distant memory.
Satchell, who led all scorers with 26 points, was asked if maintaining the league win streak was on the minds of himself and his teammates.
“Big time,” he said. “We’re not losing in league, period.”
Pearson, a Cal-Hi Sports all-state sophomore from last season, added 18 points for the Crusaders.
“We are finally getting healthy, which we haven’t been all season, and hopefully we can peak at the right time,” said Fantazia, whose team went back into this week’s State Top 20 at No. 20 after having to drop out for one week and will be playing St. John Bosco of Bellflower next Monday at the MaxPreps MLK Classic being held at St. Mary’s College in Moraga. “I was proud of the way my guys handled the atmosphere and played for each other.”
For St. Mary’s, Johnson shined with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Junior guard Jamar Marshall, who didn’t play football this season, still showed explosiveness on the court, improved ball-handling and shooting, and was even-steven with Pearson. He finished with 23 points.