MODESTO — When you don’t play your best at this point of the season, you get sent home.
The Vanden High girls basketball team was far from its best Tuesday night as the Vikings fell to host Modesto Christian 62-49 in the Northern California Regionals Division III semifinals.
Nearly half of Vanden’s points (24) came at the free throw line in a game that saw 55 fouls called. The problem was the Vikings also missed 13 fouls shots.
“We had our opportunities, but we had too many turnovers on simple inbound plays,” Vanden coach Allison Johnson said. “And we missed too many free throws. Those were the two things that we could have controlled.
“The refs I could take, being a playoff game, but we just didn’t have what it took tonight. We lost to very good team.”
Having beaten the Crusaders (25-8) in last year’s playoffs, Johnson thought her team would step up to the challenge again.
“I was confident coming into this game,” the coach said. “But we didn’t have it tonight. We had a difficult time scoring and I don’t know how many free throws we missed.
“When we’re not knocking down free throws and we’re turning it over and giving up offensive rebounds, that’s the things we needed to control. So, I’m sad for my team.”
The sixth-seeded Vikings were also outrebounded by the No. 2 Crusaders 46-34, 14 of which were grabbed by MC’s Jasmine Hampton.
Modesto Christian actually turned the ball over more than the Vikings (29-20), but Vanden’s led to more points by the Crusaders.
The game was close throughout the first half, Modesto leading 10-9 after the first quarter. The second quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with the Vikings (25-7) taking a 21-20 lead on a pair of free throws with 3 minutes, 38 seconds to play in the half.
But Modesto Christian scored the last eight points of the second quarter to grab a 28-21 lead at the break.
Then it was all Crusaders in the third quarter, breaking open a lead that would never really be threatened again.
Modesto Christian opened the period with an 8-0 run for a 36-21 advantage, its biggest of the night. The Vikings never gave in, though, hitting six free throws and a 3-pointer by Kiana Moore kept Vanden within striking distance at 45-35 with eight minutes to play.
The closest the Vikings would get in the fourth quarter was seven points (53-46) with 1:51 to play, but the Crusaders closed the game on a 9-3 run to put an end to Vanden’s season.
Julia Blackshell-Fair led the Vikings with 16 points and added nine rebounds, while Blair finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
Senior Lexi Tubbs led the Crusaders with 18 points, while Stephanie Moore had 12 and Meagan Warwick scored 11. Moore also chipped in seven rebounds and Warwick had five.
Johnson will be the first person to admit that she didn’t think her team’s season was coming to an end Tuesday.
“I was not ready for my season to be over,” Johnson said. “These girls really care about each other. They work hard for each other. No one was ready for it to be over. It’s going to take a minute for them to absorb that, but nothing can change what these girls have done.
“It’s a new step that they took (making to the NorCal semifinals). This is the first time in Vanden girls basketball history. Our goal wasn’t to make it to the third round. Our goal was to win NorCals and win state, but we fell short. Nonetheless, it was a new step and I am so incredibly proud of my team.”
Modesto Christian advances to the NorCal finals against top-seeded Enterprise of Redding, a 54-47 semifinal winner over Florin of Sacramento, at American Canyon High, Saturday.