Eagles defeat Mustangs, earn Holiday Invitational honors
Eagle tenacity and aggressive play overcame their lethargic start and FC returned to form in game three, defeating the hosts and winning the Laton Holiday Invitational, Dec. 30. Senior Chandler Vargas, right, scored 15 points, including two key 3-pointers late in the 4th quarter and the Eagles beat the Mustangs, 69-49.
BOYS' BASKETBALL SPORTS SHORTS, 2011-12
(Scrimmages do not count toward win/loss record. Visit the Sports Section for boys' basketball features.) For a simple overview of scores and upcoming games, check the Winter sport box scores, 2011-12 for dates, opponents and times for all Eagle sports.
Be sure to visit the 2011-12 boys' basketball schedule, home page, roster page, or check out Maxpreps.com. The Eagles are currently 9-1 overall and 0-0 in the West Sequoia League as of Dec. 30. The Eagles will continue the 2011-12 season with a home game against the Sierra Chietains, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m.
BOYS' BASKETBALL, 2011-12
LATON MUSTANGS HOLIDAY INVITATIONAL, Dec. 28-30
FC COMES OUT VICTORIOUS TO CLOSE LATON TOURNAMENT--Dec. 30
The Eagles matched up with the Laton Mustangs in the championship game of the Laton tournament, Dec. 30. After going undefeated in the tournament both teams were hungry for the prized championship trophy. After a tight first half, he Eagles pulled away in the second to beat the Mustangs, 69-49.
Senior Brady Lee was named Tournament MVP while senior Cooper Belmont received All-Tournament honors. Senior Josh Grinage was deemed Most Inspirational for the Eagles.
Excitement was in the air as both teams prepared for the opening tip-off. It was a Friday night, the crowd was loud and nerves were escalated. The Eagles were looking to win their second tournament in a row. The Mustangs wanted to bring home the victory in front of their home fans.
Both teams went at it from the start of the game. FC played tight man to man defense while the Mustangs utilized a different strategy. They protected the key and forced FC to shoot from the outside perimeter. Their loose defense was effective in stopping FC from scoring off drives to the basket. Junior Brandon McCormick scored five points in the first, making his first three of the season. At the end of the scrappy quarter, the Eagles led, 15-13.
-The team is currently playing some of the best basketball I have seen from any Fresno Christian basketball team. Their hard work has been the key factor in winning back to back tournaments.-- --Eagle Head Coach Josh Justin
The Eagles executed a full court press from the start of the second quarter which was broken by the seasoned Mustangs. Laton fed the ball to big man Colton Minter who dropped 10 points in the first half. Lee, scored 10 in the second quarter to aid the Eagles in keeping their small lead. FC soon changed their defensive strategy by falling back into a 2-3 zone. This was a deciding factor in the game as the Mustangs struggled to make shots against the zone. Going into halftime the Eagles were up, 35-30.
Although it is Grinage's first year playing FC basketball he is already demonstrating hustle and tenaciousness. Head coach Josh Justin named him Most Inspirational for the Eagles. When asked about winning the award Grinage said he was pretty shocked.
-I was expecting it to go to Brady or Cooper,-- Grinage said. -I just tried to get in and go hard whenever I could so maybe I could get more time.--
With the championship on the line, the host Mustangs kept the game to a 5-point Eagle lead at the half. However, All-Tournament selection senior Cooper Belmont, center, overcame a poor shooting performance and still scored 13 points as FC won its second straight December tournament.
Though Laton scored a quick five points to start the third, FC dominated the quarter. The Eagles began running the court and scoring on fast-breaks. Senior Ryan Neufeld muscled his way to the rack and made six points in the third. FC limited the Mustangs to just seven points by their controlled defensive play. They caught fire on the offensive end, scoring 20 to gain a steady lead. Going into the final quarter the Eagles led, 55-37.
Lee scored his season high of 19 points and had 11 rebounds. He feels like their 2-3 zone defense was a major reason why they won the game.
-We are used to playing up-tempo defense but we really had control ourselves this game,-- Lee said. -We are not used to playing a zone but we executed really well and Laton had difficultly scoring against us. I'm proud of how my team responded to the challenge.--
The Eagles came out confident and determined in the fourth quarter. They knew that the game would not be won by steals and traps but by smart team basketball. FC worked the ball around the perimeter of the court to get open looks. Senior Chandler Vargas found his shot and finished with 15 points for the Eagles. Vargas nailed two three-pointers in the fourth to give his team momentum. Belmont, who ended with 13, hit shots down the stretch to help secure the win. Laton made a couple three-pointers in an attempt to comeback but it was too late. As the final buzzer rang the Eagles celebrated their 69-49 championship victory.
Coach Justin praises his team for their smart play and solid defense in the second half. He believes that doing the small stuff correctly results in winning games.
-We played hard and did the little things right, which helped us to get another victory,-- Justin said. -We played solid defense in the second half which helped us to build a big lead and eventually win the game.--
Justin, who was a former FC basketball player, has seen many teams come and go through the boys' basketball program. He shares his thoughts on how his team has been playing.
-The team is currently playing some of the best basketball I have seen from any Fresno Christian basketball team," Justin said. "Their hard work has been the key factor in winning back to back tournaments.--
The Division V Eagles will next play their first home game against the D-IV powerhouse Sierra Chietains, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m.
FC SOARS PAST STRATHMORE--Dec. 29
Coming off of a close win against Riverdale, the Eagles stepped up their game against the Strathmore Spartans, Dec. 29. FC hit shots and executed defensively to earn the 74-52 victory.
The Eagles were able to feel out their opponents in the first quarter. They switched from a half court defense to a full court press. This resulted in turnovers for the Spartans. FC cut down on their turnovers and played better team basketball than their previous game. At the end of the first they led by eight, 18-10.
Senior Brady Lee led his team offensively with 18 points and made 14 of his points in the first half. Strathmore's Jorge Ibarra scored 14 points to lead his team in scoring.
The Eagles came out even stronger in the second quarter, scoring a total of 27 points. Senior Ryan Neufeld attacked the basket to draw fouls and make layups. Cooper Belmont hit a three and made two other shots from the field to lengthen the Eagles lead. Going into the halftime FC had a commanding lead, 45-21.
Tyler Krigbaum, '12, hit the boards with five rebounds and Belmont had 9 steals. The Eagles played their style of fast pace basketball and never looked back.
Head coach Josh says he is proud of the effort his team displayed.
-We attacked the basket well on offense and forced lots of turnovers on defense,-- Justin said. -Overall, it was a great team effort and a great team win. I was very proud of how hard the team played throughout the game regardless of what the score was.--
Due to their substantial lead, Justin gave some of his starters a break. Freshman Lance Henderson yet again held his own with 6 points and 2 rebounds. Senior Ramandeep Singh was an inside threat with 2 blocks and 6 points. By the end of the third quarter, the Eagles extended their lead to 65-35.
Though it is Singh's first year playing varsity basketball he is feeling more and more comfortable on the court. He shares his thoughts on playing basketball at a higher level.
"It feels pretty new because this is my first year on varsity," Singh said, "It's pretty competitive but I just need to fix some things which I will work on in practice."
The Eagles slowed their pace in the fourth quarter. With a few starters on the bench, other players were given the opportunity to excel. As the final buzzer rang, FC defeated the Spartans 74-52, sending the Eagles to the final against Laton.
Justin believes the prospects of winning the Laton Holiday tournament are good. He shares what the Eagles must continue to do in order to be successful.
-Tomorrow's championship game against Laton should be a fun and exciting game,-- Justin said. -If we continue to work hard on defense and force turnovers, we should be in a great position to win the tournament.--
The Eagles will next move onto the championship game where they will face the Laton Mustangs, Dec. 30 at 7 p.m.
EAGLES SURVIVE LATE SURGE, DEFEAT RIVERDALE, 72-71--Dec. 28
The Eagles faced the Riverdale Cowboys in their opening game of the Laton Mustangs Holiday Invitational, Dec. 28. The score was tight the entire game as both teams seemed evenly matched. But the Eagles rode their 8-point first quarter lead to a 72-71 victory over the Cowboys.
The Eagles, who had not played a game in 11 days, were eager to face the Riverdale Cowboys. FC was especially hungry for the win because they knew they would see Riverdale twice more in league play.
Going into the game the Eagles wanted to play their style of basketball: up-tempo and aggressive. However, due to fouls from both teams, the game was significantly slowed down. Despite the slow play, FC led, 22-14, going into the second quarter.
Senior Cooper Belmont led his team offensively with 25 points. Following close behind was senior Ryan Neufeld with 24. However, the games leading scorer was senior Jesus Cabello who finished with 31 points.
Part of the Eagles game plan was to stop Cabello who averages 24.4 points per game. FC knew that he was a huge inside threat both offensively and defensively. Although it was hard to contain Cabello on defense, the Eagles attacked him and he fell into early foul trouble. This ultimately helped FC as Cabello was taken out in order to preserve him for later in the game.
The Eagles missed shots and turned the ball over often in the first half. However, their aggressive defensive play helped them out significantly. At the end of the second quarter, FC led 40-33.
Head coach Josh Justin believes like the Eagles worked hard and played with composure. He feels like they were fortunate to win the close game.
-Tonight's game against Riverdale was a tough game that we were lucky to win,-- Justin said. -In the end we had two key defensive stops that help preserve the victory for us. We played really hard throughout the game and this hard work payed off in the end and helped us get the win. Ultimately, hard work and keeping our composure contributed to our victory.--
The third quarter and fourth quarter were rocky for the Eagles as the Cowboys gained momentum on the offensive end. Despite being a post-man, Cabello hit a couple of three-pointers to put Riverdale back in the game. With new found passion, the Cowboys were able to break FC's press and score buckets in transition. Yet senior Chandler Vargas hit a clutch three near the end of the fourth quarter to give the Eagles a much needed boost.
With less than a minute left in the game, the Eagles were up by one. The energy in the gym was mounting as each second ticked off the clock. FC failed to produce offensively and Riverdale called a time out with less than 20 seconds left.
Coming out of the timeout, Riverdale passed the ball around in order to look for a good shot. All they needed was a two-pointer to take the lead.
One of Riverdale's guards found Cabello open under the basket and made the pass. Cabello shot the ball but it bounced off the rim. Immediately FC crashed the boards and senior Brady Lee secured the rebound.
However, as Lee hurriedly dribbled away from the frenzy, he tripped and Riverdale grabbed the loose ball. They immediately called a time-out with about four seconds left.
The tension was in the air as both teams returned from their huddles. FC knew they could not afford to play anything but their best defense.
Riverdale inbounded the ball and looked for an open player. However, Lee cheated a little too far on the ball and his man was left open on the three-point line. With less than three seconds left, a final shot was attempted but Lee hustled over to him and swatted the ball away. The final buzzer went off and the Eagles celebrated their one point win.
Senior Brady Lee talks about his game ending block.
-I probably shouldn't of helped over on the ball so much,-- Lee said. -When the pass was made to my man, I just ran over and hoped he wouldn't make a three. As he shot it, I knew I could get a clean block so I went for it. I am very glad it worked out.--
Looking ahead, coach Justin believes the Eagles can win the Laton Holiday Invitational.
-If we continue to play hard and execute well on offense, we should have a great chance to win the tournament.--
The Eagles will next face the Strathmore Spartans in the Laton Mustangs Holiday Invitational, Dec. 29 at 5:30 p.m. For more information on the Eagles season, check out the Boys' basketball sport shorts: Eagles champions at Liberty.