On to Arco
GALT – With a standing ovation congratulating their triumph, the Forest Lake Christian Falcons upset No. 1 seed Sierra Christian 79-61 in the boys Division V semifinal of the Sac-Joaquin section tournament Tuesday to advance to the title bout – a first for all on board.
Coach David Thomas will have his first opportunity to guide the Falcons in the section title which will be played against the winner of Tuesday’s Big Valley Christian-Brookside Christian game. The championship will tip off at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Arco Arena. The Falcons haven’t been to the section title game since 2001 in a loss to Victory Christian.
“We just played magnificently,” Thomas said after the game. “That was a very good team. With the six players they had, what they accomplished was amazing.”
Sierra Christian (18-4) rolled into the game with only one reserve but all six players played with fire, shooting at an incredibly high level before the Falcons defense turned up the heat, eventually forcing the Bears into 21 turnovers on the night.
“Defensively, we lowered their shooting percentage, especially on outside shots and kept them out of the key,” Thomas said.
But the Falcons’ high powered offense was doubly worth its reputation.
From the tip-off, FLC (21-9) controlled the ball and the momentum with 6-foot, 6-inch center Josh Ritchart tipping the ball to older brother Andrew Ritchart for an opening dunk to get things started.
Josh Ritchart claimed a few jams of his own, accounting for 13 points in the first quarter en route to a 29-point first quarter for the Falcons and a game-high 24 points for himself.
“It’s just a great feeling,” Josh Ritchart said. “Since the beginning of the year … it’s just great to get to this point.”
The Falcons had four players score in double figures. In addition to Josh Ritchart, Ben Sparling scored 17, Austin Maynard had 15 and Andrew Ritchart finished with 14 points. Pierce Azarcon added eight points for the No. 4 seed Falcons, who extended their winning streak to eight games.
“This is awesome,” Andrew Ritchart said of making the section title game. “It’s been in the back of our minds all year. It’s the first time since 2001 the guys have gone back and we’ve just been working hard for this all year, every practice … I don’t know what to feel right now.”
The win didn’t come without hard work.
“We knew (the Bears) weren’t quitters,” Andrew Ritchart said. “We just had to come out and execute. We performed our offense and it worked.”
Sierra Christian fought back in the second half, holding FLC to 11 points in the third quarter in the only stretch the Bears outscored the Falcons. It seemed the Bears’ Caleb Murray had an answer for each of the Falcons’ buckets, scoring 23 points on the night and being constant pest on defense.
Students from the Rocklin school chanted “M-V-P” every time he scored, but FLC’s top scorer, Josh Ritchart, turned up the heat with 10 points in the fourth quarter to kill their buzz. The Falcons’ defense also became stringent down the stretch, forcing seven turnovers in the final quarter.
“To give them credit, they came back in the second half and battled us to the end,” Thomas said. “I’m just very proud of our boys. They’ve had hard work and they’ve played well.”
To contact Sports Writer Zuri Berry, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4244.
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The Little League District 11 postseason is off to a hot start.