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Eagles soar at Selland, win back-to-back Valley Championships (VIDEO, PODCAST)

(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 are currently 24-2 overall as of March 2. According to, FC has the 5th best record in the state for D-V basketball. No. 8-seed FC will next host the No. 9-seeded Holy Martyrs, March 7 at 7 p.m.

FC’s five starters looked confident as they prepared for the opening tip-off. Unlike their opponents, these five seniors knew what it was like to play at Selland Arena. With a certain degree of comfort in their surroundings, the Eagles played solid basketball. FC came out strong, scoring the first bucket in the first 7 seconds. The No. 2-seeded Laton Mustangs battled hard but FC out-played and out-hustled their opponents; the Eagles finished with a 60-40 victory, March 2.

For the first time in Fresno Christian history, the boys basketball team has won two Valley Championship titles in a row.

The student section was rocking with excited Eagle fans. Homemade signs and blown up faces were seen all throughout the crowd. Senior Tyler Krigbaum talks about his anxious nerves the day before the game.

“I was anxious,” Krigbaum said. “I woke up like three times in the middle of the night. I was just excited to play there again because I knew we definitely had the upper and I knew we could win.”

The defending champions jumped on Laton from the start of the game. FC pushed the momentum by getting out and running in transition. Brady Lee, who led the Eagles with 14, had 3 fast break assists in the first quarter. The Eagles played pressure filled half court defense which resulted in multiple turnovers from their opponents. FC capitalized on these turnovers by scoring lay-ups on offensive. Senior Ryan Neufeld, dominated the first quarter with multiple rebounds and points. Neufeld would later earn the MVP honor with 12 points, 13 boards and 3 steals. Laton?s big man, Colton Minter, ?12, was taken out after picking up his second foul late in the first. At the end of the first the Eagles led, 17-6.

Senior Cooper Belmont opened the third quarter with the first 3 pointer of the game. Shortly after, Belmont pulled down a rebound and went coast to coast for a lay-up. Belmont finished the game with 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.

Freshman Lance Henderson hit a short corner jumper to give his team the 26-11 lead in the third. The score went back and forth as both teams aggressively attacked the hoop. Belmont and Minter, each picked up their third foul late in the second quarter. Junior guard Christian Pilgrim hit three consecutive free throws to help bridge Laton?s point deficit. The very next possession, Senior Josh Grinage finished in the key while getting fouled. Going into halftime, FC led 34-20.

Coach Josh Justin has coached his team to two Valley Championships in a row. Justin, who was an FC basketball player himself, is proud of the entire team.

“It was amazing to be back at Selland, and it was even more amazing to be victorious again,” Justin said. “I am very proud of how each of our players performed on Friday. Every member of the team contributed to our success.”

As the second half got underway the Eagles were looking to extend their lead in the first couple minutes. Senior Chandler Vargas, who finished with 7 points and 3 assists, hit a 3 within seconds of the third quarter. FC executed a full court press in order to push the tempo of the game. Both teams went cold for a stretch and struggled to score the ball. Laton had opportunities to score but missed multiple lay-ups. The Eagles turned the ball over on a couple of occasions while trying to make tough passes in transition. Going into the final quarter, the Eagles led, 42-25.

The Mustangs cut the lead to 14 by scoring an “and 1” early in the fourth. The Eagles continued to pass the ball around and execute in the half court set. Krigbaum, who finished with 9 points and 7 rebounds, went to the free throw line twice in the third quarter. FC’s big man drained 3 of his 4 free throws to extend the lead. Neufeld continued to pull down offensive rebounds to give his team second chance opportunities. The Eagles caught fire and pushed their lead to 29 points with a little over than 3 minutes left in the ball game.

Coach Justin took out the 5 starters in order to give the rest of his players court time. The second string played with hustle as they looked to put the ball in the hoop. Senior Ramandeep Singh, who finished with 6 rebounds, proved to be a threat on the boards. Laton hit a couple three pointers to cut into FC?s 20 point lead. Coach Justin put in his five starters with a minute left in the game. These were the very same players who had won the Division V Valley title just one year ago. The starters showed good sportsmanship by passing the ball around and letting the shot clock expire. As the final seconds ticked off the clock the Eagle fans were on their feet applauding their team. When all was said and done, FC walked away with a 60-40 victory over the Mustangs.

After winning their game, the Eagles went up to the winners podium to receive recognition and applause. Krigbaum shares how it felt to be on the podium for the second time in a row.

“It was fun to see all the students out there because I knew they supported us,” Krigbaum said. “It was a good experience to be up on the platform again because you feel like your on top of the world.”

Coach Justin has only been the Varsity head coach for two years now. The WSL Coach of the year shares his thoughts on winning the championship.

“The starting five used their previous experience at Selland to help us get out to an early lead and we never looked back,” Justin said “We feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to win back to back titles. Very few teams get that opportunity.”

The Eagles got the No. 8-seed going into state playoffs. With a 24-2 record, they are one win away from being the winningest boys’? basketball team in school history. Follow the whole CIF California State Division V basketball tournament through the playoff bracket.

FC will next host the No. 9-seeded Holy Martyrs, Wednesday March 7 at 7 p.m.

PODCAST: Valley Championship comments, CalState playoff : March 7 , 2012–

For another report, read Fresno Bee writer Andy Boogard’s article: PREP BASKETBALL: Fresno Christian boys defeat Laton to clinch D-V championship.

One can view the entire game on the the Central Section Network.

For more information on the Eagles season, check out
Boys’ basketball sport shorts: Eagles punch ticket to Selland (VIDEO).

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