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Falcons looking to go back to the future

Young Forest Lake looks to build a solid foundation with 6 freshmen
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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LAKE OF THE PINES — The walls of Forest Lake Christian’s gymnasium are adorned with some impressive banners from the not-too-distant past. The Falcons were a Sac-Joaquin Section power just five years ago, winning three straight Division V titles and regularly contending in the CIF Nor-Cal playoffs. Coach Tom Ritchart isn’t aspiring to such lofty heights this season. The Falcons are simply seeking a return to the playoffs, which is still ambitious considering they finished 7-20 last year. “Making the playoffs would mean a lot,” said Bethany Gamel, the lone senior starter. “We have a lot of younger players and that would do so much for their confidence in the future.” Forest Lake is without a junior varsity for a second straight season. The six freshmen on the team are learning the varsity game on the fly. Lauren Piner has thrived in her first high school season. The freshman leads the Falcons (4-8) in scoring. “She’s quick and tall,” Ritchart said. “She gets a lot of her points just off of hustle. She gets a lot of fast break points.” Gamel is a heady guard who provides a stabilizing presence on the court. “She’s just a hard worker, a leader,” Ritchart said. Junior Emily Woodward is tough inside for Forest Lake. At 6-1, she can dominate at times. Sophomore Emily Pearce plays point guard and brings a valuable year of experience to the court. Classmate Josey Poppin adds versatility to the lineup. Forest Lake has shown flashes of greatness during the non-league schedule. The Falcons roared back from a 20-point deficit to defeat Vacaville Christian in a tournament game last week. Earlier in December they led defending Central Valley Christian League champion Forest Lake for much of the game before the Wildfires rallied to win. The Falcons will face Foresthill (6-5) tonight to open CVCL play. Forest Lake is pointing to the future with an eye on taking a step forward this season. “On any given night, we can beat any team in this league, but we can also lose to any team,” said Ritchart, whose sons Josh and Andrew starred at Forest Lake. “If we can sneak up and get second, that would be a good accomplishment. Making the playoffs is really our ultimate goal.”