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Boys' basketball sport shorts: FC ends journey with St. Bernard loss

(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 FC finished 7-1 in the West Sequoia League. The Eagles finished 25-3 overall.

After defeating the Holy Martyrs in the first round of state playoffs FC was ready for round two. They traveled to Los Angeles to face off with the top seeded St. Bernard Vikings, March 10. Though the Eagles showed hustle and heart, their season came to a close with a 96-64 loss to the Vikings.

Though the ride is over, FC has much to be proud of. They won two tournaments, triumphed on Senior Night, soared to a 21 game winning streak, took first place in league, garnered all-league honors, took home the Valley title, won a state playoff game and became the winningest boys basketball team in Fresno Christian history.

A year ago Senior Cooper Belmont thought nothing could compare with his junior year season. However, after the success of this year, Belmont says this season was definitely the highlight of his basketball career.

“After last year’s season it was hard to imagine a season better than that, “Belmont said. “But looking back on this season it was twice as good. It’s just amazing, you wouldn’t think that could happen.”

The Vikings executed a full court trap from the start of the game. The pressure resulted in multiple turnovers from the Eagles. St. Bernard capitalized on FC’s mistakes by scoring quick buckets in transition. The Eagles were able to feed the ball to Belmont in the open court. Belmont hit a couple 3’s in the first quarter to pace his team. The Vikings scored off of fast breaks and drives to the hoop. The home team overpowered FC in the post and garnered a big lead. Going into the second, the Eagles trailed, 32-16.

Head coach Josh Justin readily admits that the Vikings are a talented team with lots of size.

“We played hard and gave it everything we had but in the end they were just too much,” Justin said. “They were able to get too many offensive rebounds, which led to lots of second chance points. These second chance points were definitely the difference in Saturday’s game.”

The undersized Eagles had difficulty defending their opponents in the low post. The Vikings pounded the ball inside and took advantage of their height. FC looked to shoot the ball any chance they got. Senior Chandler Vargas hit his shots and finished with 12 points. Tyler Krigbaum, ’12, scored in the paint and ended with 7. The Eagles looked to push the ball down the court but were hindered by the Vikings aggressive defense. St. Bernard’s second string entered the game and held their own against FC. At the end of the second the home team led, 58-28.

Though FC was down by 30 at halftime, Belmont was focused on coming out and playing hard. He turned out to be the game high scorer with 30 points.

“Going into the third quarter I knew we had to make them respect us,” Belmont said. “I wanted to show them that we belonged here. I definitely still thought we could win; I wasn’t thinking we were going to lose.”

The Eagles came out with resolve in the third quarter, outscoring their opponents 17-16. FC played aggressive on the defensive end. Their physicality paid off as they secured multiple rebounds. The Eagles scored the ball off of jump-shots and lay-ups. FC was determined to finish strong. At one point, one of the Vikings dunked the ball off of a rebound. Rather than hanging their heads, FC showed composure. Senior Ryan Neufeld quickly inbounded the ball to Brady Lee, ?12, who drove down the court and scored a lay-up. Belmont continued to pace his team with a solid offensive performance. Going into the fourth St. Bernard was up, 74-45.

Coach Justin is glad that his team never let up despite the fierce competition. He praises Belmont in particular for his leadership and strong offensive play.

“I was very proud of how hard our team worked throughout the night,” Justin said. “Cooper Belmont played one his best games of the year. He attacked the basket and hit his outside shots. I was very proud of how well he played against such talented competition.”

As the fourth quarter began the Eagles knew this would most likely be the final 8 minutes of their season. The starting five were seen encouraging each other as they walked out onto the court. FC held their own and played with confidence. Vargas hit a couple 3?s to garner cheers from the crowd. The three-year varsity guard shares his thoughts on playing against the Vikings.

“They were a great team and they did a good job of disrupting our game-plan and our usual flow,” Vargas said. “By the third quarter we had adjusted and understood how they were playing. For me personally, being a shooter I was able to find gaps where I could get good shots off and they just happened to fall.”

FC rallied together and buckled down on defense.They were determined to not let their opponents score 100 points. St. Bernard continued to attack the hoop but the Eagles did a good job of getting stops. FC never let up or played soft. They had won 25 games with grace and they were going to go out with dignity. As the final buzzer rang, the scoreboard showed 96-64, St. Bernard.

Though the loss was unfortunate, the Eagles took it in stride. They spent the next day sight seeing in Santa Monica and enjoying each others company. Coach Justin says it was the perfect way to end the season.

“While the game did not go exactly how we had wanted, the trip was an awesome experience,” Justin said. “We had a great time together and I could not think of a better way to end the season than together as team down south.”

Looking back over the season, the second-year Varsity coach could not be prouder of his team.

“This season has truly been the greatest basketball season I have ever been a part of,” Justin said. “I feel honored to have had the opportunity to coach such an amazing group of young men.”

For more information on the Eagles season check out Eagles triumphant in State playoff game, defeat Holy Martyrs (VIDEO, PODCAST).

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