What a difference a year can make.
Or maybe it was just the taste of success.
Either way, Steve Gonet and his Forest Lake Christian Falcons were one of five area varsity basketball teams to punch their playoff tickets Sunday afternoon, when the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section announced the seedings for the 2004 postseason.
A year ago, FLC and its head coach called it a season with a 10-15 overall record and 6-8 mark in the Central Valley Christian League, while the rest of the county clubs headed off for playoff action.
Even though they’re headed back to the playoffs, the Falcons and their head coach weren’t exactly pleased with their placement in the Division V bracket.
Sixteenth-seeded FLC (13-11, 7-7) travels to No. 1 Modesto Christian (20-6) in first-round play Wednesday.
“Of course we’re happy to be back in (the playoffs). It’s the first time in a couple of years,” Gonet said. “But I was kind of surprised we went in so low. I thought we would end up 14th or maybe 15th. But you know, finishing out the season with two losses, I guess I could have expected that.”
FLC was ranked 10th in last week’s D-V power ratings, but back-to-back losses to Victory Christian (80-71) and Woodland Christian (84-53) apparently put the Falcons on the bubble.
Their reward for getting in will be facing a formidable foe in the top-seed Crusaders, who have won 14 straight games, dating back to a 51-48 loss to Newark Memorial in the Dec. 29 Modesto Christian Tournament.
Four Crusaders average double figures in scoring, including 6-foot, 7-inch Andray Glenn, a senior center who has averaged 16.2 points and 10.7 rebounds a game. Harry Powell (6-3 Sr.) averages 13.2 points and 12.2 rebounds a game, while 6-3 guard Michael Porter (16.5 ppg.) and 6-3 forward Adrian Oliver (14.5 ppg.) are also capable of lighting it up.
“We’ve got our hands full, of course,” Gonet said. “But we do have some shooters. And if we can put it together on the same night, anything can happen.”
Division I Boys
No. 9 Nevada Union (16-10) at No. 8 Beyer (16-11) – Nevada Union claimed its second straight Metro Conference co-championship this season, but by dropping their final two league games of the season to Yuba City (56-46) and Grant (56-49) last week, the Miners lost the opportunity to host its first-round opponent.
NU dropped from a No. 4 rating to No. 9 in a week’s time, meaning the Miners must head to Beyer (Modesto) for Friday night’s opening tip.
“If we win either game we ended up in the five spot. Two wins would have put us in the third spot,” said NU head coach Jeff Dellis. “The good thing was we did play two playoff-like games against two playoff teams on the road. I know that there’s no way Beyer will be as obnoxious as Yuba City or as intimidating as Grant. So, we’re road-tested.”
The Patriots claimed the Central California Conference championship after winning six of their last seven – and 11 of last 13 – matchups, including a 43-40 win at Turlock (21-9) to seal the league crown Friday.
“We’re trying to find out about Beyer as much as we can. But I’m sure they’re somebody we can compete with,” Dellis said. “We’re going to make a long trek down there and hopefully represent Nevada Union and Nevada County in a way everybody would be proud of.”
Division III Girls
No. 13 Center (14-11) at No. 4 Bear River (24-2) – Sometimes when the seeds are announced your team squares off with an unknown opponent from some far off corner of the section.
That wasn’t the case for Bear River and head coach Duwaine Ganskie, whose fourth-seeded Bruins will host No. 13 Center from nearby Antelope.
And these teams have already met once this season, a 53-44 win for the Bruins on Dec. 8.
“Their coach, Ray Gagnon, and I go back quite a ways. He’s been at Center about as long as I’ve been here – way back when we were in the same league, the old GEL (Golden Empire League),” said Ganskie. “He’s a good coach. It will be interesting. I’m sure he’s going over the tape.”
Even though the Bruins have already beaten the Cougars – a team that has won eight of its last nine – this season, that doesn’t necessarily give Bear River an edge, Ganskie said.
“Anytime you play a team twice, I think the advantage goes to the team that lost the first time. Usually that’s true because it’s a lot easier to pay attention to things you did wrong or why you came up short,” Ganskie said. “And if we win this, I hope that same theory holds out to be true when we play Thursday.”
With a win Tuesday, the Bruins could face No. 5-seed Placer, a team Bear River lost to 44-41 on Jan. 3.
Division I Girls
No. 14 Downey (14-11) at No. 3 Nevada Union (19-6) – By taking care of business in the final week of its Metro slate – with wins over Yuba City (55-39) and Grant (70-46) – Nevada Union moved from a seventh seed to a third seed in a matter of week, which ensured the Miners a home-court advantage in Thursday’s opening round.
The Metro Conference’s co-runner-up Nevada Union won four in a row, and eight of its last nine games, down the stretch. Downey’s Knights, the Central California Conference fifth-place team, went 2-4 down the stretch.
Division V Girls
No. 16 Sacramento Adventist (3-10) at No. 1 Forest Lake Christian (23-4) – The defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion Forest Lake Christian Falcons begin the 2004 playoffs where they left off last season – at the top.
FLC closed out its third-straight Central Valley Christian League championship with a 14-0 record (the Falcons have won 44-straight CVCL contests) and by winning 15 of its last 17 games, the only losses coming to Division I McClatchy (65-52) on Feb.7 and state power Piedmont (65-56) on Jan. 24.
Though Sac. Adventist’ Capitals won’t appear to pose much of a threat to the Falcons’ title defense, could run into a potential road block in the section semifinals at Galt High School.
If the seedings hold true, FLC would face old rival Ripon Christian, No. 4 seed, on March 2. Those two faced off in the 2003 championship, in which FLC ended Ripon Christian’s three-year reign as D-V champs.
“We actually would prefer to play Ripon than (No. 3-seed) Modesto Christian there,” said FLC coach Steve Kellar. “Modesto Christian is the better team. But I do think (No. 2-seed) Woodland (Christian) will handle Modesto Christian.
“We’ll be playing Woodland at Arco. That’d be my guess.”
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EL DORADO — Nevada Union’s up and down season continued Friday night as the Miners struggled mightily in a 41-7 loss to the Union Mine Diamondbacks.