Falcons set to sail once again

High-scoring Ritchart leads defending section champions as they reload
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The Forest Lake Christian boys basketball team knows matching last year’s unprecedented success will be difficult. But junior star Josh Ritchart and the Falcons aren’t lowering their lofty standards despite losing three tremendous seniors from a title team. “Our goal is to win league first, then do well in the playoffs and win sections,” Ritchart said. “We can still win sections, that’s our main goal.” The Falcons went 22-10 and won the school’s first Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship last season. Josh’s brother Andrew was the leading scorer on that team while guards Ben Sparling and Austin Maynard were invaluable leaders. Josh Ritchart’s return is good reason for optimism at Forest Lake (7-3). He is drawing attention from college coaches all over the country — he said a scout from UCLA attended last Saturday’s game against Lincoln. The versatile 6-7 forward averaged 15.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.7 blocks per game last season. As one of two returning starters this season, he’s averaging 30 points a game and shooting a phenomenal 67 percent from the floor. “It’s definitely been surprising,” Ritchart said of his offensive numbers. “One game against Wheatland I knew I had scored a lot and I thought I had somewhere in the 20s. We looked at the scorebook at the end of the game and I had 43. We don’t have set plays for me, we just go through the offense and if I can beat my man off the dribble I’ll do it or if I can go get a rebound and put it back, I do it.” Senior Johnny Umamoto has been a key to the Falcons’ early success this year. He’s scoring 9.8 points and five assists per game. Senior forward Matt Masterson, a transfer from El Camino who sat out last year, averages seven points a game and gives the Falcons good size in the paint. Senior Pierce Azarcon is a strong defender on the perimeter and 6-4 senior Dawson Young gives the Falcons great size down low. Seniors Maxx Mamula and Billy Corbin are part of a deep rotation that also includes juniors Garrett Boatman and Jason Camacho. “We might have lost those three seniors, but I think we’re playing better as a team this year,” Camacho said. “Josh ups the tempo, his defense is awesome and he gets us all pumped up to play harder.” Forest Lake already owns wins over Division IV schools Wheatland and Marysville this season. Two of the Falcons’ three losses were to Lincoln (13-1). They’ll face Elliot Christian and Golden Sierra to conclude non-league play before jumping into Central Valley Christian League play at Foresthill on Jan. 6. Last year’s success has transferred smoothly into this season with Ritchart setting the standard. “Once we won the first time everyone got a taste of it,” Ritchart said. “Now everyone wants to repeat that.”