NorCal Open: Newark Memorial’s season ends with 56-55 loss to Modesto Christian

Just as it fought back from a 2-7 start to its season, Newark Memorial fought back from a 12-point first-half deficit and a nine-point fourth quarter margin but it wasn’t enough as Modesto Christian’s Mason Washington’s corner three-pointer with 25 seconds left gave the Crusaders a 56-55 Open Division regional quarterfinal road win.

“We ran that set like 50 times,” Modesto Christian co-head coach Richard Midgley said on playing against the Newark Memorial stingy zone defense played second half. “We kept getting the open look in the corner, just hoping someone could knock it down. He (Washington) got open and hit it.”

The Cougars (23-8), who earlier went on a 12-0 run to take a 52-49 lead with over two minutes left, had a chance to reclaim the lead when sparkplug Mike Pickney was fouled on a 25-foot three-pointer with 13 seconds left.

Pickney, though, made only the final of his three foul shot attempts and, after a Modesto Christian free throw miss, Joey Frenchwood’s game-winning attempt inside the foul line was blocked by Kevin Hamlet and Christian Ellis with less than two seconds left.

Newark Memorial (23-8), who had won 21 games in a row, finished 13-of-22 from the free throw line.

Washington finished with a game-high 20 points for Modesto Christian (24-8), including 12 in the first half when the Crusaders built a 28-21 halftime lead.

Hamlet added 12 points and seven rebounds for a Crusaders team that will play at Bishop O’Dowd in a Tuesday NorCal semifinal. Modesto Christian ended O’Dowd’s season in the Open quarterfinals a year ago, 57-42, but suffered a 70-52 loss in Oakland last month.

As for three-time NCS Division II champion Newark Memorial, it marks the second straight year the Cougars season finishes in the CIF Open Division quarterfinals and the end of a senior class that might be the best in Newark Memorial history.

“As silly as we are, we have aspirations of doing great things all the time and it came up short tonight”, said Newark Memorial coach Craig Ashmore, “but not because of effort and not because of guys sharing the ball and playing.”

The Cougars Pickney finished with 19 points, including 13 in the second half, and Frenchwood scored 13.


Other Notes:

  • Newark Memorial had a 54-53 lead when the lights went out with 1:03 left, causing a five-minute delay.
  • Modesto Christian deserves a lot of credit. Coach Midgley and Porter run a great program and the Crusaders came out strong against Newark Memorial’s physical defense. The Crusaders won’t be an easy opponent for O’Dowd.
  • Modesto also only turned the ball over 10 times and scored 17 in the first quarter despite starting the game without a point in the first three minutes.
  • When Newark Memorial grabbed a 50-49 lead  on Joey Frenchwood free throws with 3:09 left, it was its first lead since it was 9-8 about midway through the opening quarter.
  • I felt that Newark would need to win the inside battle and it did in the final quarter as Matthew Thomas was sensational, altering Modesto Christian shots. But, the Crusaders were even in rebounding (31-31) and the duo of Anthony Townes and Hamlet outscored Damien Banford and Thomas, 20-17.
  • Cougars coach Craig Ashmore is one of the best coaches in the state and also one of the classiest men around. After coming out of what I imagine was an emotional locker room, Ashmore spoke eloquently, reiterated how proud he was of his team and its journey, and even thanked Jimmy Durkin and myself for our coverage. I imagine that Ashmore and his team will have a special bond that continues well beyond graduation.
  • Ashmore: “Any year when you end the season at this time, where it’s do or die, it’s tough because there are no do overs, no mulligans. And it probably magnifies because of the seniors and some of them played for a long time
  • The all-senior starting five of Frenchwood, Banford, Pickney, Thomas, and Johnny Parker scored all of the Newark points.
  • Newark Memorial’s senior class garnered most of the minutes this season and only seniors played in this final game. I hate to doubt Newark and coach Ashmore, but his expertise is really going to be tested next season. With Moreau Catholic bringing everybody back, I guess the Cougars long-time reign atop the Mission Valley league will be coming to an end.
  • Regardless, next year’s Newark Memorial team will be the three-time defending NCS Division II champs and will take a 46-game Mission Valley win streak into 2014-2015.
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