Team Champion: Modesto Christian
Third Place: Davis
Consolation Winner: Laguna Creek
Tournament MVP: Anthony Hubbard, Turlock
Tournament Outstanding Player: Raymond Bowles, Modesto Christian
All-Tournament Team: Chris Carvin, Laguna Creek; Robert Perry, Valley; Edwin Costellanos, Davis; Klayton Miller, Modesto; Alek Carlson, Turlock; Derek Evans, Modesto Christian
Surprisingly, no one affiliated with the Turlock High boys basketball program closed his or her eyes in a sequence that appeared doomful. They watched in awe and anticipation, as the ball was repeatedly batted against the backboard and rim like a game of handball.
That was the final heart-stopping seconds of the Bulldogs’ championship game against Modesto Christian High on Saturday night at the 34th annual Frank Godinez Memorial Tournament, a meeting that turned out to be another classic. The Turlock players kept fighting and fighting for the rebound, stretching out their limbs for the improbable win over one of California’s best teams. But like the few hundred fans inside Bulldog Arena, all they could do was hope for the best.
“When you see that happening, you just know that nothing positive is going to happen,” Turlock coach Doug Cornfoot would say later. “We’re not going to have, all of a sudden, someone come out from the middle of the pack with the ball.”
Instead, it was the colossal body of Modesto Christian’s Raymond Nelson that out-muscled everyone on the court for consecutive rebounds. On his third put-back, he kissed the ball off the backboard and through the hoop with 1.5 seconds left, enough for a 71-70 win that left many of the attendees stunned.
For the Crusaders, they not only achieved their fifth tournament trophy but also some redemption after suffering a one-point defeat to the Bulldogs a year ago in the same championship game.
For the Bulldogs, Saturday’s close loss demonstrated they can be giant killers.
In one of his best high school games, Turlock senior guard and tournament MVP Anthony Hubbard ripped through Modesto Christian’s defense for 28 points, though he went 6-for-19 from the foul line, a stat that he said cost his team the game.
“I feel responsible because of the free throws I missed,” he said. “I make even half of the free throws, we’d have won.
“We played our hearts out there,” he continued. “I still think we’re one of the best teams in the Central Valley, and I think we proved that to everybody. We lost by one point. Other stuff happened. Turnovers were a big factor, but free throws were most likely the reason why we lost.”
However, he made them when they mattered. Hubbard sunk two free throws with 27.8 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 71-70 edge. That gave Turlock some optimism with the Crusaders having one last chance. Modesto Christian coach Gary Porter drew up a play for his top big man, Anthony Pratt, but an unexpected 2-3 zone defense derailed that idea. The Crusaders were then forced to have the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Raymond Bowles (15 points), throw up an unwanted outside shot.
That’s when a mad scramble commenced. Screams swallowed the arena, with fans, bench players and coaches anticipating whom would end up with the ball. The winner: Nelson, a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder who knocked in just his third basket of the night.
“My job was to be on the other side of the basket and try to get any loose boards,” Nelson said about MC’s final strategy. “I just tried to get up there and power through any fouls or anything. I just wanted the basket.”
After quickly inbounding the ball to push one-third up the court, the Bulldogs called timeout with 0.8 seconds left. But Alek Carlson’s inbound pass in front of the opposing team bench to Hubbard was knocked down near the rim, and the night was over.
At certain points, it didn’t look like the game would be this close. The Crusaders were ahead by double-digits until early in the third quarter, thanks to production from Derek Evans (17 points) and Ryan Riner (10 points).
But the Bulldogs also had their own collection of contributors, especially on a night with 50 fouls between both teams, resulting in three Turlock players — Ashton Richardson, Connor Pearson and Denny Serpa — fouling out. That meant Cornfoot had to look deep down his Turlock bench from some help.
DaShawn Holcombe remained quite poise for a sophomore, finishing with eight points; Matt Ruesga provided a major spark late in the game to complete a 10-point night; Devon Day’s lone field goal was a third-quarter buzzer-beater to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, 52-51; and Carlson, a junior starter, managed another solid performance with 13 points, 11 of them before the final eight minutes.
Even so, a close loss wasn’t quite enough.
“I expect to win when we play them,” Cornfoot said of the Crusaders. “I’m satisfied that we competed, that we put ourselves in position to win. But I’m not satisfied with losing. We proved last year that we can play with them. This year, we proved that we can play with them. You go into a game expecting you can compete with them.”
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