Valley Christian puts up 95, hits the road for Ripon Christian next

By: John Parker/Roseville Press Tribune Correspondent
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With two minutes remaining in Valley Christian Academy’s game Wednesday night, Jason Gish began to feel it. He told coach Brad Gunter Jr. as much, and the coach, hardly one to get in the way of his athletes in such situations, gave him sage advice: “OK, shoot it.”

Only it wasn’t a shooting rhythm the Lions’ resident deadeye was feeling as their 95-72 dispatching of Woodland Christian (19-8) in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division V opener drew to a close; it was emotion.

“I told him, ‘No, coach, I’m feeling it,'” Gish said, as in, this was it, likely the final game he and his fellow VCA seniors would play in the school’s gym, affectionately known as the Lions’ Den.

For his part, Gish, who has attended the tiny school on Melody Lane since kindergarten, made the farewell memorable, canning four three-pointers and scoring a team-high 27 points in the rout. He and several teammates have played together in the gym since the second grade – before the bleachers, which were packed shoulder to shoulder Wednesday, were even installed on the building’s south side.

“It was pretty emotional. The sadness of leaving it behind started to get to me,” Gish said. “But we’ll always be brothers. We’ll always be together that way.”

The Lions’ much-talked-about "System" looked to be playoff ready as they heaved shot after shot, and even when they didn’t fall, VCA (20-6) utilized 30 offensive rebounds to get plenty of second chances.

“It’s like playing against the option in football,” Cardinals coach Justin Smith said. “You can simulate it, you can talk about it, but when you get out there, it leaves little margin for error.”

The sixth-seeded Lions will travel to No. 3 Ripon Christian (22-5), which sat idle with a bye Wednesday, on Friday for a second-round tip-off at 7 p.m.