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Brown, Pirates make history
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After years of being the Central Valley Conference's doormat, the Modesto Junior College women's basketball program is showing signs of a turnaround.

The Pirates won five of their first seven league games and had a 20-7 overall record as of Jan 30. They are ranked No. 10 in Northern California and 19th in the state coaches' poll.

Modesto JC's resurrection can be directly attributed to Mike Girardi's diligence. The second-year head coach recruited some of the area's elite players, including Ceres High's Krystle Brown.

Girardi watched Brown play eight times during her senior year.

“She's so athletic,” Girardi said. “She can shoot outside and drive inside. Defensively, she's active.”

Brown, a 6-foot center, led the Ceres High varsity girls basketball team to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II crown and a 25-7 overall record in 2004-05. The first-team, all-Modesto Metro Conference selection averaged 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

“I'm glad I chose to go here,” Brown said.

Brown committed to the Pirates after competing alongside current teammates Britney Borba (Patterson), Connie Gomes (Hilmar), Larissa Founts (East Union) and Amy Russell (Bret Harte) in the Six County All-Star High School Basketball Game in May. She scored 10 points as the Red All-Stars topped the Blue All-Stars 80-77 at Modesto JC.

Girardi also landed 2003-04 Six County All-Star contest participants Diane Felix (Modesto High), Kelly Cole (Denair) and Katie Lemburg (Modesto Christian) as well.

Brown could have joined the five-time, defending conference champion San Joaquin Delta College women's basketball squad. The Mustangs have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in postseason play the last four years, finishing in the Elite 8 in 2004-05. In 2001-02, they were California State Final Four participants.

The Pirates haven't had a winning campaign since 1997-98. They compiled a 16-14 record and advanced past the first round of the playoffs.

Modesto JC went a combined 10-72 in league and 28-93 overall the past six seasons.

“I like it (playing for Modesto JC) better because all of the pressure is off,” Brown said. “A lot of us score in double figures every night. We play real well together.”

Brown has started every game for the Pirates.

“It hasn't phased her at all,” Girardi said. “She's really adjusted well.”

Brown averaged 12.5 points, six rebounds and two blocks through the first 27 games. She also shot 49 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free-throw line. Brown ranked first on the team in rebounding, blocked shots, free-throw percentage, and second in scoring and field-goal percentage.

Through the first seven conference games, Brown averaged 16.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and three blocks. She shot 44 percent from the field and 67 percent from the foul line.

Brown tallied 21 points on 7 of 9 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in a 75-55 win over Lassen College in the consolation title game of the De Anza Tournament in December.

She had 10 points and 15 rebounds in a 61-44 victory against Monterey Peninsula on Nov. 12.

Brown and the Pirates made history when they beat Merced College for the first time in 12 years on Jan. 7. She finished with 10 points and four blocks during Modesto JC's 76-68 triumph at home.

Brown had career highs in points (25) and rebounds (21) during the Pirates' 82-70 win over the College of Sequoias on Saturday in Modesto.

“We're really happy with Krystle,” Girardi said. “She's been doing great all year. She's such a good kid.”

Brown has also matured emotionally.

“She's a competitive player,” Girardi said. “She's really channeled that in a positive way. I think she has a great future. I'm sure there will be some four-year coaches calling.” - By DALE BUTLER / Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier