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Faith Christian boys basketball wins program's first section title
GALT – On Wednesday night at Faith Christian High's C.A. Summy Gymnasium, boys basketball coach Rick Daugherty sat his team in the bleachers for one final speech.
The words sounded vaguely familiar.
Daugherty has been hammering home the mantra, "Go for Yellow," all season to his Lions, a reference to the yellow banners that hang on the gym wall, signifying section championship berths.
On the eve of their section title game with Stockton Christian, Daugherty reminded his players of that motto and the goal they set as a team going into spring ball last year.
These Lions weren't going to be remembered as the team that almost won it all — they were dead set on making history.
Daugherty had a good feeling when, on the drive down to Galt Thursday, his players were already asking him about offseason workouts for next year.
That's the kind of dedication, he said, led to the biggest win in program history.
The top-seeded Lions blew out No. 3 Stockton Christian 69-43 on Thursday night in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship game at Galt High School to claim the basketball program's first section title.
As the final buzzer sounded and the clock hit zero, the contingent of Faith Christian students in attendance, along with the Lion mascots and cheerleaders, stormed the court and mobbed Faith's players.
Pom-poms were out, players were carried off the court and Daugherty couldn't wipe the smile off of his face as his players joined him in cutting the nets.
"It feels real good to set a goal, make the sacrifices and to see it accomplished," Daugherty said. "I hope the guys learned a lot from that and carry it with them into other areas of their life."
Along with its section banner, Faith (25-5) claimed its first league title since the 1992-93 season and set a school record in wins.
Gaining that record-setting victory got off to a slow start in the first quarter as Faith held just a 16-15 lead. The Eagles outrebounded the Lions 11-4 and Faith missed six of its eight free-throw attempts.
The Lions picked up the pace in the second period, forcing four Stockton turnovers as they totaled 11 rebounds, five from senior Deep Bhatti.
Faith went 10 for 17 from the field in the second quarter and ended the period on a 17-3 run.
That hot streak continued into the third quarter when the Lions outscored the Eagles 19-6 with Bhatti picking up nine of his game-high 21 points.
Bhatti, who was a role player off the bench during the 2011-12 season, mixed in a nice post game (18 rebounds) with a smooth left-handed stroke from the outside (two 3-pointers).
"I've been with Daugherty and most of my teammates for most of my high school career, so stepping up this year wasn't that big of a deal," Bhatti said. "My teammates made me feel comfortable and supported me."
Three-year varsity starter Micah Atkins was stellar as usual with 16 points and eight rebounds. The senior slasher made several acrobatic drives to the bucket that had the Faith student section filling up the decibel meter.
Junior sharpshooter Justin Glen put up a strong performance with 18 points, five rebounds and six assists. Glen was also a force defensively with four blocks.
Seniors Drew LeBlanc and Jordan Sullivan both tacked on seven points, while LeBlanc blocked six shots.
"Honestly, we all just love playing together," Atkins said. "There's no fighting, everyone got along great, I loved our chemistry.
"I'm going to miss this team so much."
Daugherty shared that sentiment, and in just his third year as head coach, has already reached the pinnacle and made history.
He said this is just the start of something great for the future of Faith Christian basketball.
"I wanted to restore respect to the basketball program at Faith Christian and these kids did that," Daugherty said. "Their commitment to this team was incredible."