One shining moment
SACRAMENTO – Skipping to halfcourt like they were giddy fifth graders all over again, Austin Maynard and Ben Sparling were the center of attention at Arco Arena for one shining moment.
Along with fellow senior Andrew Ritchart, the trio had just performed their best showing to date, helping beat Brookside Christian 77-58 for the school’s first ever Division V Sac-Joaquin Section boys basketball championship.
And there they were, at halfcourt accepting the championship banner, the celebratory net and game ball for Forest Lake Christian. It seemed only fitting that these guys accepted the artifacts of honor.
“These young men, the seniors, have been starters for three years,” said FLC coach David Thomas of Maynard, Sparling and Andrew Ritchart, all of whom played recreation ball in Auburn together since they were in the fifth grade. “The adversity has strengthened us. I’m just so proud of them. It just feels so great that they worked so hard to get here.”
The boys team has been living in the shadows of a very good girls program, which won three straight section titles between 2003 and 2005.
“Me and Austin talk about that all the time,” Sparling said with a bit of a satisfied smirk. “We were always talking about how our senior year we would bring it for the boys.”
With a stingy defense, the Falcons delivered.
FLC snapped the Knights’ 18-game winning streak, while denying their opponent their second section title and it’s top player, Paris Hill, from breaking Bill Cartwright’s section record of most points scored.
He fell short of the section mark by two points.
Hill had been averaging 27.3 points per game but was kept to 19 against the Falcons, who stymied his efforts in the second half, holding him to only one point in the third quarter and zero in the fourth.
“We knew if we stopped (Paris Hill), if we could hold him under 20 points and keep everyone else in check, we could win this game,” said sophomore Josh Ritchart, who scored 21 points and blocked six shots.
The Falcons also forced 18 turnovers in the game and held the Knights to 31 percent shooting from the field. Brookside Christian also shot only 28 percent from 3-point land, landing 6-of-21 attempts.
Andrew Ritchart, playing with urgency, scored a game-high 28 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had four assists, with most of his damage coming in the first half. It was his play that sparked the team when the Knights appeared to have jitters in the opening minutes.
The Falcons forced four turnovers in the first two minutes of the game, while Andrew Ritchart scored five of the first seven points leading FLC on a 12-2 run to begin the game.
The Knights never caught up.
Brookside Christian matched the Falcons’ scoring over the second and third periods, but fell flat in the fourth quarter, with Hill becoming invisible.
“Once we started the season (the key) was definitely defense,” said Sparling, who scored nine points, grabbed eight boards and had four steals. “I think this game we finally pulled together. It’s been our focus halfway through this season. We knew we could score but the question was, could we stop people? I think we did this playoffs.”
Maynard and brothers Josh and Andrew Ritchart put the nail in the coffin with five separate 3-pointers in the last five minutes.
Maynard finished with 15 points and Pierce Azarcon added four points to round out FLC’s scoring.
“It feels great,” he said. “(It’s been) four years waiting for it.”
The young guys on the team, including sophomore stud Josh Ritchart, were happy to be apart of the championship as well.
“Me and Jason (Camacho), we just got moved up a couple of weeks ago so that was pretty cool,” said sophomore Dimitri Masumbuko. “It’s definitely an experience, even to get a few minutes in the game, it’s a faster game playing varsity. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m hoping to come back next year.”
Said junior Dawson Young: “Josh, he’s a sophomore. He’s a younger guy and he’s not riding anybody’s shirttails. He’s dominating out there. Even though I’m a junior, I just love playing with him and riding on his shirttails.”
The Falcons take in stride the section title after having been denied by past champions Modesto Christian and runner-up Capital Christian for the last six years. Both teams moved up to Division IV this year.
The Falcons last appearance in a section title game was 2001, a 53-38 loss to Victory Christian.
The team now looks forward to the NorCal playoffs, which will be seeded next week.
“Obviously each game is going to get a little tougher,” Thomas said. “And we look forward to it. They can enjoy this (win) until practice Monday at 3 p.m.”
To contact Sports Writer Zuri Berry, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4244.
Forest Lake Christian 77,
Brookside Christian 58
FLC 22 14 18 23 – 77
BC 12 13 19 15 – 58
Forest Lake Christian (77)
FLC – Ben Sparling 9, Ritchart 28, Austin Maynard 15, Pierce Azarcon 4, Josh Ritchart 21, Total – 77.
Brookside Christian (58)
BC – Quinton Burse 14, Larry Fullard 2, David Scott 2, Rodney Brown 17, Paris Hill 19, Malon Henderson 2, David Hamlett 2, Total – 58.
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.