Zuri Berry: Falcons epitomize teamwork in title run | TheUnion.com

Zuri Berry: Falcons epitomize teamwork in title run

Forest Lake Christian’s run for the Division V Sac-Joaquin Section championship and Northern California playoff berth has been nothing short of miraculous.

And as Sports Editor Brian Hamilton already has noted, it’s about time.

But the true essence of what has been a fantastic run – the school’s first boys section title and first Central Valley Christian League title – for a local basketball team, and historically an achievement for these young men’s collective memories, is the balance of team-play exuded on the 13-player roster.

A loss to Woodside Priory on Tuesday was probably more disappointing because the area’s most exciting team has now been shelved.

The players on the team have simply been generous, most notably with four different starters averaging in double figures.

Head coach David Thomas said in one recent phone conversation that if opponents think they can key in on one or two players, then he has two others that can score just as easily.

And it’s because of this abnormal advantage that the Falcons – anchored by seniors Andrew Ritchart, Ben Sparling, Austin Maynard and super sophomore Josh Ritchart – have slaughtered their opponents for 75 points a game, outshining the section’s second best Division V opponent, Brookside Christian, by 19 points in the section title game.

On the biggest stage, teamwork delivered for the Falcons and it has been exemplary of their season.

And as much as scoring is the statistic of favor, for myself and others, it’s the number of the team’s assists that is verifiably the best example of what I’m talking about: 16.7 assists per game with each of the team’s top players chipping in.

Seniors Ben Sparling and Andrew Ritchart averaged 3.8 a game each while Maynard dished another 3.7. Josh Ritchart averaged 1.8 over the year.

I sat through the last three of the team’s playoff games, beginning with the team’s semifinal win over Sac-Joaquin No. 1 seed Sierra Christian.

From that game, to Tuesday’s loss to Woodside Priory in NorCals, the Falcons showed how winners win, depending on each other in crunch time and using their pick-and-roll to perfection.

Thomas used tough screens from Pierce Azarcon and back-door plays to Andrew Ritchart that sparked a larger effort by the team to search out its cutters and reward big men.

The run-and-gun offense that the fans came to love had a method to its fast-paced madness. And the team won, scorching its opponents while going 22-10.

There really was no fault in FLC’s game. What happened on Tuesday – a 28-point loss – was an aberration of what the season had shown to the FLC family and fan base: Team first.

I know I was glad to watch.


Zuri Berry is a sports writer at The Union. His column appears Wednesdays. Contact him via e-mail at zberry@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4244. You can also read his blog online at TheUnion.com.

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