NEWARK -- For the senior-heavy Newark Memorial High boys basketball team, there was little consolation to be taken from a fourth-quarter rally that came up just short in a 56-55 loss to Modesto Christian on Friday in the first round of the CIF Northern regional Open Division playoffs.
The Cougars (23-8) rallied from nine points down to take a three-point lead, but a 3-pointer by the Crusaders' Mason Washington with 25 seconds left regained the lead for Modesto Christian (24-8).
Newark's Michael Pickney was fouled shooting a 3 with 13.4 left trailing 56-54, but made only one of three free throws. The Cougars got another shot when Modesto Christian missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Joey Frenchwood's attempted floater in the lane was blocked by the Crusaders' Christian Ellis.
Ellis was fouled with 1.5 left and missed the free throw, but Frenchwood's three-quarters court attempt missed and Modesto Christian celebrated. The Crusaders will face Bishop O'Dowd on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Modesto Christian beat the Dragons in the first round of last year's Open Division playoffs.
Newark, with an entire rotation of senior players, sulked off the court as its season ended. But veteran coach Craig Ashmore spoke highly of his group's effort.
"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," Ashmore said. "And it probably magnifies because of the seniors and some of them played for a long time. As silly as we are, we have aspirations of doing great things all the time and it came up short tonight and not because of effort."
Frenchwood, a four-year starter, had 13 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Pickney led Newark with 19 points and Washington scored 20 for the Crusader.
Modesto Christian took control early with hot shooting and by dominating the glass. Washington had 10 points in the first quarter and the Crusaders made four 3-pointers in the first half while taking a 28-21 lead.
Newark's deficit remained seven points despite a terrific third quarter for Pickney, who scored nine in the period.
Modesto Christian held a 49-40 lead early in the fourth when the Cougars finally ratcheted things up. Newark suddenly started out-rebounding the Crusaders, began getting all the loose balls and converting on the offensive end.
Frenchwood hit two free throws with 3:09 left that gave the Cougars a 50-49 lead, their first advantage since the first quarter. A layup a minute later by Johnny Parker capped a 12-0 run that put Newark up 52-49.
The score was 54-53 with 1:03 left when the game experienced a five-minute delay when the lights went off. After that delay, Newark missed a 3 and Modesto rebounded and that's when Washington gave the Crusaders the lead with a 3 from the corner.