Lions roar early against Forest Lake

VCA gives Ritchart fits in the paint
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Superstar big man Josh Ritchart led his Forest Lake Christian team into hostile environment Monday and got more than he bargained for. With extra chairs brought in to find seats for a capacity crowd that gathered in the cozy gym at VCA, the crowd was into the battle from the outset. “The gym was electric tonight and was a huge motivation for our players,” said Valley Christian coach Brad Gunter. “Alumni, family and friends provided and amazing atmosphere, especially so early in the year. For kids to play in that type of environment is something they will remember the rest of their lives and that is what was so special about it.” The Valley Christian Academy boys basketball team made Forest Lake’s 6-foot-8 Ritchart work for everything he got and the result was an impressive 77-48 VCA win in front of its home crowd. In the process, the Lions got a measure of revenge against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs one year ago. “Overall it was a huge win for our program,” Gunter said. “We knew that a player of Ritchart's caliber needed our full attention and last year we lost in the playoffs because we forgot he was on the floor. This year we did not want that same mistake.” While sophomore guard Jason Gish was scoring eight points in the opening quarter, mostly on the fast break, to get the offense going, the most impressive work was happening on the defensive end. Center Jesse Peters, forward Orest Shaynyuk and at times 6-3 guard Ryan Cordell took turns putting the clamps on Ritchart, who has already committed to play his college ball at UC Davis next season. Zach Stoever and Greg Ellis took turns off the bench at helping on the big man. The Falcon center scored just nine points before intermission, but hit just two field goals. “Defensively we wanted to deny Josh the ball and double whenever he touched it,” Gunter said. “We had planned double teams based on where he caught the ball, but in the first half we went after the steal a little to much instead of the game plan of containment. We also tried to switch defenses each time down the floor, but pressure the guards no matter what look was behind. Our players did a good job overall with the defensive game plan, but Josh still scored 20 on the night. It shows you how good he is.” Point guard Stanley Winters and Peters each grabbed four rebounds in the first eight minutes, and Shaynyuk grabbed three and added a pair of blocked shots as VCA turned rebounds, steals and blocks into transition offense and a 21-11 advantage. “The game plan was tempo,” Gunter said. “We wanted a high paced game that allowed our athletes to run. I knew we would have issues with turnovers, but I felt that if we made it a fast tempo game, that would help us in the fourth. The offensive explosion in the first half was a nice surprise. We try to score 24 each quarter as a goal, but to actually do that was a nice surprise.” The second quarter was even more impressive as the Lions outscored Forest Lake 30-8 to essentially put the contest away. Cordell scored 11 points in the second stanza (16 in the first half) to lead the charge. The second half was mostly a mere formality, as the game got a bit sloppy, but the damage had been done and VCA sealed the victory. Cordell scored 23 points to lead all scorers, while Gish scored 13. Shaynyuk (11 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks) and Peters (nine points, 10 boards, two blocks) both filled up the stat sheet while holding down the interior defense. The Lions are at Woodland Christian next Tuesday.