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FC wins Holiday Basketball Invitational

With the Fresno Christian Holiday Invitational Championship on the line, the home team defeated Orosi, 56-53, on Dec. 30. Behind senior Ross Charest’s clutch 3-point shooting, the Eagles were able to erase an early double-digit deficit.

“”We played harder than Orosi did in the second half,”” FC head coach Mike Neal said. “”I think we limited them to four shots inside the paint and forced their game outside.””

It is no secret that FC is a 3-point team and has shown it can score from outside even in the recent San Diego Small Schools Tournament in mid-December.

“”We are a 3-point team,”” Neal said. “”We do not have a strong inside game but Ross and Brandon (Cain) both hit a couple of big 3-pointers late.””

Charest’s final 3-pointer gave FC the lead for the first time in the game.

In the final seconds, junior Wes Wells hit two free throws to put the Eagles up by three points and a desperation Cardinal half-court shot fell short to end the game.

Despite being down by 10 points to the Cardinals early in the second quarter, FC roared back to a brief tie (22) near the end of the first half under the 3-point shooting of Charest.

“”We are a small team and have to rely on the fast break and quick shots,”” Charest said. “”As a point guard, I run the plays and look for the open shot. If I am covered, I will dish off to the open man.””

Charest made seven of the Eagles’ 11 3-point shots, including the winner in the final minute, leading all players with 29 points. He also was named the tournament’s MVP.

“”Charest is our leader, no doubt about it,”” coach Neal said. “”He is a quiet leader; he leads by example. No only does he score but he consistently finds open people to spread the points around.””

While Charest had seven 3-pointers, senior Josh Wright and junior Brandon Cain each added two in the second half.

“”This was the best game we have played all year,”” Charest said. “”We played hard and proved to ourselves we can play with good teams. Originally we just hoped to give Sierra a good game but when we beat them, we had confidence we could run with Orosi despite being a Division V team.””

While first-half turnovers and poor shooting set the Eagles behind early, they rebounded and stifled the Division III Cardinal attack in the second quarter to close the deficit to 24-22.

“”We were lazy in the first quarter,”” coach Neal said, “”but the guys turned on a switch and got after Orosi in the second. We committed fewer turnovers and limited their lay-ups and crawled back in the game.””

The teams traded baskets in a 14-14 draw in the third and FC stayed close in the final quarter but was down by two when Charest hit his final 3-pointer to send the home squad and the fans into a frenzy.

Senior Seth Lane and Cain each added nine points to Charest’s game-high total. But the team’s defense, which had bent all game, frustrated the Cardinals during the remaining seconds.

“”Seth Lane had the toughest job all week,”” coach Neal said. “”He defended against the post and the other team’s big man. He plugged the hole in the paint and gave us a chance to win.””

Lane also joined Charest to the all-tournament team along with Orosi’s Frankie Manquero, who scored 23 points in the final, and Tony Hernandez, who added 19 points for the second-place team.

“”Seth out-played Hernandez all night,”” Charest said. “”Even though he (Hernandez) scored nearly 20 points and was an all-tournament selection, Seth limited his effectiveness. Without Seth’s strong game, we would not have won the championship.””

Before the championship game, FC ran its tournament record to 3-0 with wins over Sierra (57-47), Tranquillity (65-44) and Farmersville (79-44). Go to “”Sports Briefs”” section in the Announcements section of this online paper for details on those games.

In the third-place game of the tournament, Sierra defeated Caruthers, 69-66.

Basketball’s overall preseason record is 7-5. They go on the road for the next two games: Mendota on Jan. 5 and Firebaugh on Jan. 6.

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