Forest Lake Boys Basketball Outlook

Shooting star looks for help

Falcons welcome a new supporting cast around star Ritchart
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The two-time defending Central Valley Christian League champions have one big reason to be hopeful for a three-peat: Josh Ritchart. But the Forest Lake Christian boys basketball team is realizing it’s going to take more than the 6-8 senior star to compete with the much-improved squads in the CVCL. “We graduated seven of our top nine players from last year,” coach Dave Thomas said. “Josh has actually improved. The players around him are less experienced and they’re just getting to know each other and are realizing the transition from JV to varsity is dramatic.” Forest Lake (6-5) has not only dominated the CVCL in recent years, but has made back-to-back trips to Arco Arena for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship game. “For me, the goal’s always been to get to Arco,” said Ritchart, who signed with UC Davis last month. “But it’s a matter of us being able to get to that level.” Ritchart is the cornerstone for the young Falcons. He averaged 26.2 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3 blocks per game last season while shooting a remarkable 61 percent from the field. The only other returning player to see significant playing time last season is senior Jason Camacho. The point guard, whose father — also named Jason — is a co-coach with Thomas, is off to a strong start this season. “He’s been doing really well this year,” Ritchart said. “He’s improved a lot. He’s gotten bigger. He’s really worked on his ball handling and his jump shot and it’s shown.” Junior Randy Van Winkle, a star on the soccer field, is progressing nicely at shooting guard. Senior Dmitry Masumbuko and junior Taylor Phillips are also a part of the regular guard rotation, which is a work in progress. “They’re all very solid, it’s just a matter of gaining experience and confidence,” Thomas said. Forest Lake has little size on the interior other than Ritchart. Senior Garrett Boatman (6-0) will be relied upon for rebounding and scoring in the paint. Juniors Josh Knapp (6-1) and Cameron Beste (6-2) bring toughness along with senior Michael Cuneo (5-11). The Falcons have tested themselves in the non-league schedule and have posted several quality wins. They won two of three last weekend at a tournament in Medford, Ore. A 65-60 win over Wheatland on Dec. 12 included a furious rally from a 20-2 deficit in the first quarter. “We’ve had halves where we’ve played really well,” Ritchart said. “We’ve showed glimpses of (our potential), but we haven’t had a full game where we’ve put it all together.” Forest Lake will need to put it all together to defend its CVCL crown. Victory Christian (10-1) is the early favorite, led by high-scoring senior Nathan Coppernoll. Vacaville Christian (7-1) and Sacramento Waldorf (9-3) are both loaded with talent. “Victory’s probably the top team in Division V right now,” Thomas said. “Vacaville has improved a lot and Waldorf is always tough.” Ritchart knows by now that teams will be doing all they can to slow him down. He’ll see double and triple-teams, so Forest Lake must get production from its other players if the Falcons are to make another strong run this season. “If I get a double-team I’m tall enough to get it to the open man,” Ritchart said. “It’s just a matter of the guys cutting to the basket or hitting the open shots.” Thomas believes the Falcons have the talent to develop into a title contender. “The problem with our team is simply the lack of experience,” Thomas said. “We haven’t gotten the confidence in our outside shooting yet. Teams double Josh a lot and they haven’t been hitting the open shots.”