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Transfer of Power

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This school obviously wants to get very good, very fast.

And with an about-face almost overnight, Modesto Calvary Temple Christian High has gone from doormat to red carpet in its second season of boys’ basketball.

Calvary Temple’s success is among the worst-kept secrets in town.

Thanks partly to three talented transfers from Modesto Christian and a $4 1/2-million recreation complex, Calvary Temple (32-5) will play Santa Clara (29-3) for the Division V state championship on Friday at Arco Arena in Sacramento.

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The Rev. Glen Berteau, the administrator with the strongest voice at the school, knew what he wanted to build when he arrived five years ago from Baton Rouge, La.

A former running back at Louisiana Tech, Berteau didn’t wait to make his mark at Calvary Temple, which at the time only included schooling from kindergarten to eighth grade.

The high school was added four years ago--this is the first year with seniors at Calvary Temple--and with it came plans for the family life center, a state-of-the-art fitness complex, a basketball court, racquetball courts and nine classrooms.

The center has been more than an attraction.

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“It’s kind of like, build it and they will come,” Berteau said. “It’s been really exciting to see what the Lord has done here and how the building has gone up.”

The complex is only part of the story at Calvary Temple. The athletes and the coach are the rest.

Juniors Nick Tabari, Eric Leong and Chris Armstrong were part of high-caliber teams at Modesto Christian, a small school a few miles from Calvary Temple.

Modesto Christian won the Division V state title in 1997 when the three were freshmen. Armstrong played on the junior varsity that season.

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Last season, after moving to Division IV, the Crusaders lost by a point in the state semifinals.

Then all the movement began.

Leong, Tabari and Armstrong transferred to Calvary Temple and Bobby Cole, a former assistant at Modesto Christian, was hired to coach the Warriors.

Leong, a 6-foot-1 guard, said his transfer was academically related.

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“I didn’t feel I was being prepared for college at Modesto Christian,” said Leong, who has a 4.0 grade-point average.

“It was kind of easy for me. It wasn’t really about going to play basketball at a different school. We all had different reasons. Mine was for academic reasons.”

Tabari, the most talented of the three with a 27.9 scoring average, had his own reasons. Racial tensions, he said, played a part.

He reportedly was upset by racially insensitive graffiti that was sprayed on a locker.

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“It wasn’t nothing that was really out and open,” Tabari said. “It was just a couple bad apples in the bunch. You’re always going to encounter a little bit of that no matter where you go. It’s true.”

Cole, who has coached at several high schools, wants to concentrate on the future. The scrutiny and stories of the season--the transfers, the big-time gym complex--are, in his mind, part of the past.

“I’d rather we just talk about where we’re at right now,” Cole said. “I think the past is another avenue.

“But these boys are not just truly basketball players. They carry a very good grade-point average.”

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Love it or leave it, Calvary Temple, with an enrollment of 105 high-school students, is playing for keeps. It’s a new feeling after finishing 3-21 last season.

“We’ve established ourselves as a legitimate, strong, very athletic, exciting, fun-to-watch basketball team,” Berteau said. “This is really our year to make a statement and say that we’re here and we hope to be here [in the future].

“We see ourselves being in good shape for years.”


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