Seniors form a rock-solid foundation
Rob Hodges saw four of the five current Forest Lake Christian seniors on the basketball court in 1997 and that was all it took.
He knew he had to coach them.
Never mind that up until then the former Nevada Union wrestler’s basketball experience was limited to two seasons of junior high ball and as a coach on his daughter Brooke’s fifth-grade AAU team.
“When I saw them, I made the commitment that somehow I wanted to coach them at the varsity level,” Hodges said.
It wasn’t that the four girls – Katie Boddorf, Katelyn Gilfillan, Braeden Huusfeldt and Jessica Miller – were unbeatable.
“I think they only won two or three games in the county league when they were in seventh grade,” Hodges said. “But I saw a tremendous amount of potential. They were very athletic and played everybody tough, but they didn’t (have the fundamentals). I knew if they got just a smattering of the basics, they could be a great team.”
The class of 2002 stayed at four until Jaime Laughlin transferred into the program two seasons ago.
FLC, thanks in part to the play of that group, made it to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semifinals that year.
The Lady Falcons ran into a tough Central Catholic squad and left the floor of Modesto Junior College on the losing end.
“(FLC) almost always won its first two playoff games. They’ve been to Modesto J.C. quite a few times, but they almost always end up facing Ripon Christian or Central Catholic and getting knocked out,” Hodges said.
That all changed last season.
Hodges, who had been a varsity assistant the previous two seasons, realized the goal he’d set four years earlier when he took over as FLC’s head coach.
The 1981 Nevada Union graduate immediately set his sights on school history.
First, FLC settled a score with the 10-time defending Central Valley Christian League champion Sacramento Waldorf.
Huusfeldt sank a pair of free throws with a two seconds left in regulation as the the Lady Falcons snapped the host’s 109-game win streak with a one point win. FLC lost the rematch in Grass Valley the next month, but grabbed a share of the league title – its first since 1987.
“Our devotion before the game was (the story) of David and Goliath. How we were the little David and how Waldorf was so huge,” Boddorf said. “We all went into the game with that mindset. We just had so much fight in us and we went out there and won. That’s when we realized we really can do anything.”
Hodges said the ripples from that slim, regular season win can be felt today.
“That was a big monkey off our backs. That ended 10 years of futility against them for us,” he said. “Winning that game for this group of seniors completely changed their confidence level. I think they realized Waldorf was just another basketball team.”
The Lady Falcons made more school history two and half weeks later with a section semifinal win over Woodland Christian and a first ever trip to the section championship game and with that a berth in the NorCal State Championships.
FLC lost to Ripon Christian at Arco Arena, then to Redwood Christian in its NorCal first-round matchup at Dublin High School, but the good news for Lady Falcons fans was the group of five juniors would be back for one last go-round.
“I think it all started when we all got on varsity and started playing together in our sophomore year. We had an incredible amount of unity and that’s the one of the biggest things,” Miller said.
The Lady Falcons picked up this season where they left off.
FLC, which swept Sacramento Waldorf en route to a 14-0 league record and second straight CVCL title, has won 24 straight games.
“They have been at the forefront of a program that is really just finding itself and getting established,” Hodges said. “This program’s best years are yet to come, but they’re going to be able to look back and know they played a huge part in that.”
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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.