March 6, 2010
Victory Christian boys section title push started a decade ago

By Bill Paterson

The seeds of Victory Christian's 68-64 Sac-Joaquin Section Division V boys overtime basketball championship win against Ripon Christian Friday at Arco Arena were planted a decade ago.

That's when the core group of seniors was in the third grade at the K-through-12 Carmichael private school. Coaching dads Lane Boolen and Gary Halverson would point to the banner hanging in the gym.

It was the D-V section boys basketball championship banner from the 2001 season, the only boys title in that sport in school history.

"We'd point at it and tell the kids, 'Hey guys that's something to shoot for,'" said Boolen, now a Vikings assistant. "We saw the potential back then. Others would join as we worked with them through elementary school, junior high and into high school."

Even though one of the best athletes would wind up at another school starring in a different sport, the Victory Christian kids kept getting better through the countless games played in and around the Carmichael area.

"Ryan Dimino played with us in third and fourth grade," Boolen said of the Del Campo football star and Bee Player of the Year this past season. "A lot of our kids know Ryan. But that's how it is. Our kids know kids from all over the place because they play a lot of ball."

They played some very good ball on Friday, sparked by a surprisingly large rooting section considering the high school has an enrollment of fewer than 200 students. They turned aside an opponent with a rich basketball history that also had beaten them by 21 points earlier in the season.

Behind the Coppernoll brothers, Nathan and Clayton, Victory Christian outscored the Knights 7-3 in overtime to get a new upgrade banner for the gym.

Nathan Coppernoll, a 6-3 senior forward, had a game-high 21 points, including the game's last basket in regulation, scoring on a driving layup that tied it 61-61 with 31 seconds to play.

A Ripon Christian turnover with 11.4 seconds and a failure by Victory Christian to get off a shot before the buzzer extended the game an extra four minutes.

Sophomore 5-11 Clayton Coppernoll, known as a stout defender, hit three critical three-pointers, two in the fourth quarter and the overtime dagger that put them up by the final 68-64 score. He finished with nine points and seven rebounds.

Seniors Johnny Coburn and Brad Hoffelt had 12 points and 6-7 Ethan Boolen, Lane's son, added eight points and two blocked shots for the top-seeded Vikings (27-3).

Second-seeded Ripon Christian (22-7) has won nine boys section titles and two California Interscholastic Federation state championships.

The Knights also have one of the top big men among small-school programs in 6-foot-8, 255-pound Tyler Goslinga, who dominated the Vikings in their previous meeting Dec. 22. The senior center scored 29 points as the Knights coasted to a 64-43 home win.

Goslinga was held to 15 this time, a key to the victory according to Victory Christian coach Bob Grexton.

"What we knew tonight is we had to take away Goslinga in the middle," Grexton said. "We felt if we controlled the middle, we could control the basketball game."

Grexton had his guards, who normally extend out and apply pressure on the perimeter, sag and help the slightly built Boolen defend the stout Goslinga.

"I got lots of help inside," said Boolen, giving nearly 80 pounds to his rival post. "I think their guards began expecting us to be there."

Goslinga took only 13 shots -- he made 12 in the first game -- and was held scoreless during the final nine minutes.

"They kept passing the ball around the outside and their big guy was trying to get open inside," Boolen said. "We felt if we made them shoot threes, that would be the best for us."

Grexton said the one-sided loss in December only fueled his guys to buy into the plan.

"What's to lose?" he said. "Just go out and play hard. That's one of the things about this team, They never quit. If (we trail), it's not insurmountable."

Ripon Christian coach Ron Vander Molen said his team simply ran out of gas.

"Fatigue was as much of a factor as anything because we don't have a lot of depth," said Vander Molen, who used seven players (Victory Christian played eight). "When you're tired, you don't think as straight."

Ethan Boolen said it was easy to understand why a group that Grexton considers overachievers could beat a team with more size and arguably more talent.

"It's a brotherhood," he said. "We trust each other. We believe in each other."

Nathan Coppernoll said Grexton pulled out all stops to motivate them by touting Ripon Christian's greatness (only Modesto Christian has won more boys section basketball titles).

"Before the game he came into the locker room and said how much basketball tradition Ripon Christian had," Nathan Coppernoll said. "How many section championships, how many NorCal championships and how many state championships they had won.

"So we knew we had to come out and play hard and play aggressively to prove we belonged."

The Vikings did.

Now they will move on the California Interscholastic Federation Northern California Regionals that start on Tuesday at home sites. Victory Christian will learn Sunday who they will play in the opener.

• The Modesto Bee's Richard T. Estrada contributed to this report

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