The “Three Ps” of Forest Lake Christian stand for Pearce, Poppin and Piner, and it’s those three players who will be leading the Lady Falcons basketball team as it strives for a Central Valley California League title.
Lauren Piner, a junior, and seniors Emily Pearce and Josey Poppin have proven to be the three-headed monster that has propelled the team to its 11-4 overall record. The three have combined for an average of 31.7 points per game, roughly 70 percent of the team’s offensive production, and all of them understand what it’s going to take if the Lady Falcons are to soar to the top.
“We really have a chance for a championship,” said Pearce, following a gutsy performance in which she came off the bench despite being ill and injured. “It’s a strong possibility for us to do it if we can take Woodland. Pushing the ball up and down the court and pressing is (our strength). I’m the main ball-handler. I feel like I need to be there for my team.”
Woodland Christian (13-2) is easily the biggest challenge on tap for the Lady Falcons. The Lady Cardinals are already off to a great start this year and would love nothing more than to repeat as CVCL champs. Forest Lake Christian, which finished in a tie for third last season (15-12, 7-5 CVCL), is showing tremendous improvement this year, averaging 44.5 points per game and allowing 37.3.
“We’re doing really well,” said Forest Lake Christian head coach Tom Ritchart. “We beat San Juan by one. I felt that was the best game before our Alaska tourney. In Alaska, it was some tough, tough competition. We won our last game there, so we come into league feeling pretty good. I think it’s going to come down to us and Woodland. We pressure pretty well.That’s our thing — to press and run.”
Forest Lake Christian is 1-1 thus far in the CVCL with a 23-point win over Delta and most recently, a 45-39 loss against Sac Waldorf in which the team fought back to reclaim the lead but just couldn’t hold on in the final minutes. Yet the season is young, and shifting the focus ahead is something the squad certainly knows how to do.
“I think it was kind of good we lost at the beginning,” said senior Josey Poppin, who is starting at center for the first time. “It opens our eyes that we’re beatable and that we have more challenges to come. I’m not used to this position (center). I’m enjoying and trying to get tougher down there. We just need to work harder, learn from losses, not feel bad and apply it to the next game, keeping our heads in it.”
For the athletes, the highlight of the preseason was undoubtedly the team’s trip up to Alaska for a tournament to which the team had been invited. Up until this year, the squad had only done a mini-camp in Spokane, Wash., but the host team extended an invitation, and it was an opportunity the Lady Falcons simply could not refuse.
“We got to go out on a boat and see whales,” said Piner. “Once we got on the court it was all business though. We definitely grew closer on and off the court. It was a trip of a lifetime.”
So with an Alaskan basketball team bonding experience behind them, the quest for a league title is now underway. Forest Lake Christian may have the Three Ps, but it takes a full team effort to earn wins, and Piner knows it well.
“The Three Ps: Pearce, Poppin and Piner,” added Piner. “That’s what coach calls us. Emily and Josey have been playing together since sixth and seventh grade. I’ve been with them on the same team since my freshman year. If we can get it together we can get a league title. Just need to play ball. I like lay ups — someone’s gotta do it. The passers matter a lot. They’re like the unsung heroes. Christin Blair is coming into her own and taking responsibility. Hailey (Adams) and Rachel (Lupo) are really owning up to the outside shots.”
The Lady Falcons do have a young roster overall, including two freshmen and five juniors, but there’s plenty of sizzle to go around. They are capable of being legitimate contenders. It’s just a matter of executing to the best of their abilities.
Forest Lake Christian will have a chance to prove it can stack up with its first shot against Woodland Christian tonight at Sleep Train Arena.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email email@example.com.