EIGHT IS ENOUGH: FLC boys basketball is small in numbers, big on talent | TheUnion.com

EIGHT IS ENOUGH: FLC boys basketball is small in numbers, big on talent

High school varsity basketball teams come in various shapes and sizes. Rosters differ from school to school, but most feature 10-15 players with an array of seniors and juniors, sometimes a sophomore or two and the occasional freshman phenom.

But, very few are built like this season's Forest Lake Christian squad.

There are just eight players on FLC's varsity boys basketball team. A small roster by most standards. Of those eight, seven are sophomores, and only two stand taller than 6-foot.

But, none of that really concerns this season's kettle of Falcons. They have set their sights on winning a league title and making a deep run in the postseason.

"These boys are dedicated," said FLC head coach Brian Metz, now in his second year at the helm of the boys varsity basketball team. "They give their best every day at practice and in games. We've had some up and down situations, and played some games not very well. But, at the end of the day, they always give their best."

While the Falcons are small in numbers and physical size, they are big on talent and believe their team chemistry is what makes them a contender.

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"A lot us have been playing with each other since we were young so we have really good chemistry," said sophomore guard Luke Gilliland, who leads the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game.

Gilliland is one of several young players that competed on last season's varsity team as a freshman and form the Falcons' foundation this season.

"Luke is a quiet leader," said Metz. "He just goes out on the floor and gets it done. He's a hard worker and he wants to get better."

The drive to get better by everyone on the team is what has Metz excited about his squad, and not just this year but for years to come.

"They are so hungry to learn," said Metz. "They want to get better. They are in it and it's exciting because we're dealing with sophomores."

As with any young team, there will be bumps along the road to prosperity and the Falcons have experienced their fair share.

They struggled early on this season, going 4-9 overall in non-league play as they tested themselves regularly by facing opponents from much larger schools.

The Falcons (7-11, 3-2) have fared better in league play, winning three of their first five games in the Central Valley California League. Their only losses have come against league leader Sacramento Waldorf and second place Foresthill, and both games were in reach for FLC.

"Our goal is to win league," Metz said. "That is what we set out to do in the very beginning of the season.

"We focus on what we can do. They believe and I believe if they play their game, then we will come out on top."

BIRDS OF PREY

Leading the Falcons this season has been sophomores Gilliland, Simon Blackburn, J.R. Molloy and Ben McDonald.

Gilliland is the team's top scorer, boasting an ability to score from anywhere on the court with his smooth jumper.

Blackburn runs the point and is another talented scorer who can beat defenders off the dribble as well as hit the 3-pointer. He leads the team in 3-pointers made and is averaging 12.6 points per game.

"He rallies the troops. He makes sure we're all on the same page, that we're all thinking the same thing and he does a really good job," Metz said of Blackburn. "He's a very smart kid. He has a very high basketball IQ."

McDonald is another weapon at guard for FLC, averaging 9.9 points per game and 3.6 assists per game.

Handling the bulk of the work in the paint is Molloy. The 6-foot, 3-inch rebounding machine leads his team with 9.1 boards per game to go with 11.4 points per game.

"I think by the time he's a senior, he will dominate," said Metz. "He just wants to get better and he's so humble."

Molloy has posted nine double-doubles this season.

"I just want to get as many rebounds as I can and put some points on the board," Molloy said when asked what his role on the team was.

SENIOR LEADER

FLC's lone senior is Gavin Hollmer, an undersized forward, who leads by example.

"It's an honor to play with all these amazing sophomores," Hollmer said. "I see my role as a leader and I just try to help them where I can and teach them how to play at the varsity level."

Hollmer does his best work on the glass, grabbing 4.9 rebounds per game to go with 2.5 points per game.

"What he lacks in the statistical department he makes up for in leadership," Metz said. "He comes out here and helps these boys, pushes these boys and sets a great example. He's probably the hardest working kid I've ever met."

DOWN THE STRETCH

At 3-2 in league play, the Falcons likely need to win out and get some help if they hope to claim the CVCL title. They travel to Sac Waldorf tonight to start a three game road trip that includes games at Woodland Christian (Feb. 2) and Victory Christian (Feb. 6). The Falcons then have home games against Futures (a non-league contest Feb. 9) and Foresthill (Feb. 13) before closing the regular season at Delta (Feb. 14).

At the midway point of league play, FLC sits in third place in the standings. The top-three teams from the CVCL get automatic playoff bids.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.