View slideshow Boys' basketball sport shorts: Eagles win Senior Night OT thriller (VIDEO)
FC executes under pressure, captures WSL title with 20th straight win
The competition stiffens but the result is still the same. In an overtime thriller, senior Cooper Belmont led the Eagles with 22 points in a wire to wire 59-56 win over Division IV Caruthers to claim the WSL title, Feb. 10.
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 21-1 overall and 6-0 in the West Sequoia League as of Feb. 10. According to Maxpreps.com, FC has the top record in the state for the Central Section D-V basketball.
The Eagles will continue the 2011-12 season with an away game against the Fowler Redcats, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
BOYS' BASKETBALL, 2011-12
FC CLINCHES LEAGUE TITLE IN WIN OVER CARUTHERS, Feb. 10 .
The Eagles faced off with the Caruthers Blue Raiders on Eagle Senior Night, Feb. 10. There was standing room only as eager fans from both schools streamed through the doors.
After the seven FC seniors were honored, the much talked about game got underway. However, the Eagles soon saw that the Blue Raiders were a different team than the last time they had faced each other, Jan. 24. The score went back and forth as both teams passionately fought for supremacy.
Electricity was in the air as fans fervently cheered for their boys. Every possession mattered as the clock wound down to the last few minutes with neither team ever leading by more than four points. The game was forced into overtime due to a clutch free-throw from senior Ryan Neufeld with seconds remaining in the fourth.
And in overtime, Caruthers took a quick four-point lead but could not hold it. The gym noise level was rocking from the home town fans and the level was ear-ringing in the last 6 seconds when junior Brandon McCormick stole the ball from a Caruthers guard and scored a layup to seal the Eagles' thrilling 59-56 victory over Caruthers.
The Eagles are currently on a 20-game winning streak. Though they have two games left in league, FC has secured their title as West Sequoia League Champions.
-It's feels incredible to win league. It really shows the hard work our team has put in everyday in practice and in games.-- --Ryan Neufeld, '12
Going into the game the Eagles realized there was a lot on the line. FC knew it would be a packed house with plenty of distractions. In addition, the game was hyped up by press from Great Day and KMPH Fox 26. Senior Brady Lee shares how his team combated their anxious thoughts.
-I think all of us felt some degree of nervous anticipation going into the game,-- Lee said. -We knew there was a lot at stake. Our coaches told us to play like it was a recess basketball game in elementary school. They wanted us to forget the pressure and to focus on playing the game of basketball.--
The five starters were ready to play Eagle basketball as they gathered for their traditional pre-game huddle. FC won the tip and the battle began. The Eagles traded buckets with Caruthers as the game progressed. The Blue Raiders attacked the hoop and dumped the ball off to senior Michael Edlund. Edlund, who finished with 14, gave his team early momentum by scoring 6 points in the first. The Eagles got out and ran on offense but they turned the ball over by forcing their passes.
Ramandeep Singh, '12, hit a baseline jumper to help boost his team's confidence. Senior Cooper Belmont led his team on offense with 5 points in the first. Belmont would later finish as the game high scorer with 22 points. At the end of the first quarter, Caruthers was up, 15-13.
As the second quarter got underway, the Eagles knew this would not be a 26-point blow out like last time. The Blue Raiders were hungry to end the Eagles winning streak and it showed. FC played man-to-man defense while the Blue Raiders executed a full court press. The Eagles were able to successfully break the press by staying calm and moving the ball around.
Senior Ryan Neufeld, left, scores the tying basket in regulation time at the free throw line, setting up a 59-56 overtime win against Caruthers, Feb. 10. Neufeld was a powerhouse in the key, finishing with 10 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block, and 1 charge which cancelled a 3-point Blue Raider play in the dying minute of overtime.
In the half-court set, the Eagles passed the ball around to find the open man. While they struggled to hit shots from the field, seniors Neufeld and Lee racked up the offensive rebounds and gave their team second chances to score. Neufeld was a powerhouse in the key finishing with 10 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 charge. Caruthers patiently passed the ball around on offense. They finished off of lay-ups and floaters in the key. The Blue Raiders also scored a couple of -and 1's-- to garner roars from their crowd. Going into halftime the Eagles led, 29-28.
The Blue Raiders caught wind in the third quarter, scoring off of three consecutive possessions. Though he was held to 2 points in the first half, Jesus Magana scored 9 in the third for Caruthers. Magana would later go on to lead his team in scoring with 15 points. The Eagles hit shots from time to time but could never quite get momentum. FC switched to a full court press in order to pressure their opponents. Towards the end of the third, senior Josh Grinage made two free throws to tie the game. Going into the fourth the Blue Raiders were up, 42-41.
The Eagles started the fourth with aggressive defensive play. Belmont was aggressive on defense, scoring 4 points off of 2 steals. He also hit another clutch three in transition to put his team ahead. The fans were on their feet as the game came down to the wire. Caruthers took a 1 point lead with 21 seconds left on the clock. FC brought the ball up the court and looked for an open shot. Seeing that nothing was available, head coach Josh Justin called a timeout with 5 seconds left.
The Eagles knew that it was now or never. Everything depended on this crucial play. Lee inbounded the ball to Neufeld who was fouled on the play. Neufeld went to the free throw line to shoot a 1 and 1. He hit the first shot but missed the second. At the end of the fourth the score was tied, 52-52. Senior Night went into overtime.
Neufeld, who ended the game with 21 points, hit game changing free throws under tremendous pressure. He shares what was going through his mind as he was on the free throw line.
-I knew I had to hit them,-- Neufeld said. -I practice them every day, hundreds of times, so I knew I couldn't miss.--
The Eagles have not lost an overtime game this season. The lead went back and forth as both teams battled to put the ball in the hoop. Neufeld took a huge charge which would have resulted in a 3-point play for the Blue Raiders. The Eagles were forced to foul Caruthers with 15 seconds left in the game. The Blue Raiders had the chance to extend their 2 point lead by hitting their free-throws. However, in a turn of events, they missed their 1 and 1 and Neufeld was there for the rebound. The second year varsity player went coast to coast and scored a lay-up while getting fouled. Neufeld hit his free throw to give his team the 1 point lead.
After calling a timeout, Caruthers inbounded the ball to one of their guards. The guard was pressured by McCormick as he brought the ball up the court. McCormick was able to steal the ball and make a last second lay-up to cement the 59-56 victory. The gym was ecstatic as Eagle fans stormed the court to celebrate with their boys.
Neufeld describes beating Caruthers and winning league as -surreal.-- He credits his team's success to their determined work ethic.
-It's feels incredible to win league,-- Neufeld said. It really shows the hard work our team has put in everyday in practice and in games.--
Check back later to hear Coach Justin's thoughts on the game.
The Eagles will next travel to face the Fowler Redcats, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
For more information on the Eagles season, check out Boys' basketball sport shorts: Eagles fly together, defeat Tranquillity (VIDEO, PODCAST). One can also read the Feb. 10 article, KMPH showcases boys' basketball 20-win season (VIDEO).
For the third game in a row, local TV station KMPH Fox 26 and sports anchor Ralph Wood highlighted the Eagles win over Caruthers. Special thanks to the station and Wood for providing the video clip: Nailbiter! Fresno Christian In OT Thriller.