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Lions hold heads high after tough loss

VCA season ends with defeat at Forest Lake Christian
By: Ray Hacke, Gold Country News Service
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It’s a rare circumstance when a basketball coach can watch the other team celebrate a playoff victory against his squad and still feel on top of the world. But that’s how Valley Christian High boys coach Brad Gunter felt Friday night. The Lions lost a tough Sac-Joaquin Section Division V quarterfinal game to host Forest Lake Christian 80-66. The game was closer than the final score would indicate — Valley Christian (16-12) led 32-29 at halftime and was only down by a bucket at 47-45 entering the fourth quarter. The fact that the Lions were able to give FLC (20-5) a run for its money gave Gunter a more than satisfactory feeling. “Watching Forest Lake, the defending section champion, celebrate a playoff victory over us after the game was the best feeling in the world, even though we lost,” Gunter said. “I told my players, ‘You just brought Valley Christian back to the forefront in basketball.’” Guards Ryan Cordell and Chris Parker led the Lions in scoring with 23 and 16 points, respectively. Both, however, were hobbled by ankle injuries entering the fourth quarter, when Forest Lake finally managed to slow down Valley Christian’s breakneck-speed offense. Gunter credited Josh Ritchart, the Falcons’ star 6-foot-7 junior forward, with disrupting the Lions’ offense. “He changes the game defensively with his presence in the paint,” Gunter said. “We counted 15 or 16 shots that he altered or blocked in the last 12 minutes of the game.” Ritchart led the Falcons with 34 points, 14 rebounds and several blocks. Senior guard Maxx Mamula added 20 points, including two 3-pointers that came when Valley Christian was within a bucket of tying FLC or taking the lead. Both treys ignited 7-0 runs that kept the Lions from catching up. Orest Shaynyuk finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds for Valley Christian. Fellow junior forward Robbie Frank added nine points.