Deep Falcons flying high

Ritchart the key, but Forest Lake loaded with supporting talent
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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LAKE OF THE PINES — A year ago, Josh Ritchart was already emerging as a young standout among a trio of stellar seniors on the Forest Lake Christian boys basketball team. After complimenting older brother Andrew, Ben Sparling and Austin Maynard on the first Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship squad in school history last season, Ritchart plays a lead role on local hardwood, but it’s his supporting cast that has the Falcons thinking repeat. “Even toward the end of last year I was already thinking about those three seniors being gone, but I knew with the class we had coming back that we were going to be able to handle missing them,” Ritchart said. While the 6-foot-7 junior is one of only two returning starters, several Falcons have increased their production sizably this season to help keep Forest Lake on top of the Central Valley Christian League standings. “It definitely feels like we’ve had to step into some big shoes, especially since those three were such a scoring force last year,” said senior Pierce Azarcon, the other returning starter who scored 5.4 points per game last season and is averaging more than seven this season. Senior Johnny Umamoto, who had two points and .9 assists per game in limited floor time last season, is averaging nearly seven points and 5.4 assists. “Our roles have changed a lot,” he said. “Usually we try to look for (Josh) first, then see what we can get.” Lately, that’s been quite a bit for Umamoto and a few other Falcons. Matt Masterson, a senior transfer from El Camino, is averaging seven rebounds and 6.8 points per game. “Matt is really the guy who gets our team pumped up,” Ritchart said. “He brings an energy to our team.” Junior Dawson Young scores close to six points and four rebounds per game. “In my opinion, we go nine deep,” head coach Dave Thomas said. “We rotate guys in. The other night I had two non-starters starting and we didn’t miss a beat. That type of depth is really helpful. Although Josh is who teams are having to pay attention to the most, we have other people who can play underneath and score.” Ritchart, who averaged 15.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.7 blocks last season, has increased those totals to 28.1, 12.6 and 5.9, respectively. “I haven’t changed my game that much,” he said. “I’m just trying to be more aggressive and assert myself on the floor and do whatever I can to score because we’re not running any special plays to go to me. The team is just working and I’m just working out there, trying to get anything I can. The points just come with that.” Ritchart returns the favor to his teammates. He’s second on the squad with 3.3 assists per game. “He’s able to take advantage that way when they double him,” Thomas said. The Falcons, 14-4 overall and 6-1 in the CVCL, kicked off the second half of league play with a 60-47 win over Foresthill Friday. They have two crucial games this week — at Vacaville Christian Tuesday and against Victory Christian Friday. Vacaville Christian downed Sacramento Waldorf last week after the Waves handed Forest Lake its lone league defeat. “I told them after we lost to Waldorf we have a six-game season,” Thomas said. “That’s the second round. I built stairs and said, ‘You have to take them one step at a time.’” Ritchart and the Falcons have adopted the mentality in their quest to return to the section final at Arco Arena. “That’s definitely what we want to do,” the star said. “We want to win league and get back to Arco, because we know we can do it.”