The championship game of the 13th annual Holiday Hoops Classic featured the host Modesto Christian (11-2) and El Camino Real (12-2) from Woodland Hills in a primetime Saturday night matchup. The game was the hottest ticket in town with standing room only in the Modesto Christian gym and some fans even being denied access to the game.
Modesto Christian was looking to continue their tournament dominance after an 84-60 victory over Alemany the previous night. The Crusaders' University of Pacific bound duo of Thomas Wallace and Raymond Bowles both wanted to follow up big performances from the semi final game.
El Camino Real's University of Hawaii signee Michael Thomas brought the crowd to their feet early in the contest with a rim rattling dunk. But the first quarter was dominated by Bowles offensively while Zerrion Payton showed resemblances of his uncle Gary Payton by playing relentless defense. The Crusaders finished on a nice run to end the first quarter with a 17-12 lead.
Early in the second quarter both teams were faced with foul trouble. Regardless, Modesto Christian sophomore Anthony Towne showed he was a force around the rim blocking shots and getting many put backs. The game turned midway through the second quarter; the Conquistadors lit up the scoreboard and took over.
El Camino Real point guard Maleke Haynes displayed quickness and explosiveness with the ball and junior Julian Richardson proved to be a crafty scorer for the Conquistadors. Modesto Christian struggled from the free throw line, which is an area that previously has plagued them. El Camino Real finished the half with a with a 39-30 lead.
El Camino Real built on its second quarter momentum and blew up in the third quarter to take complete control of the championship bout. Modesto Christian continued to struggle at the line and was out of rhythm offensively. Richardson who finished with 30 points, caught fire hitting four three pointers in a row and helped push the lead to 25. The third quarter finished with the Conquistadors leading 67-44.
Modesto Christian went to a full court press hoping to create turnovers but the press was ineffective, as the lead reached 32 points and the Conquistadors continued their dominance. El Camino won the game by a final score of 90-65 to win the Holiday Hoops Classic.
Afterwards Bowles, who led the Crusaders with 18 points, said "we let them catch fire, they got more and more momentum. Then we made it worse by rushing and playing too fast when we needed to slow the game down. Defensively we were slacking and needed more communication."
Richardson took home the tournament Most Valuable Player award. Four other players from the championship game were named to the all tournament team. Modesto Christian's leading scorers Wallace and Bowles along with El Camino Real's Haynes and defensive leader Evan Wardlow (who went down with an ankle injury during the championship game).
The 3rd place game pitted Weston Ranch against Bishop Alemany. Alemany's Bennie Boatwright showed off his lengthy body as well as dynamic scoring ability with a team high 20 points and Bear Henderson also provided great energy scoring 14 leading the Warriors to victory, 65-54.
Weston Ranch led by Davieon Leverett, Dylan Alexander, and Mcnair transfer Eric Duncan was unable to keep pace with the Warriors. Despite the loss, Leverett was a presence in the post and entertained the crowd with electrifying dunks while posting a team high 25 points. Henderson and Leverett were named to the all-tournament first team.