By Lauren Johnson
Lodi Academy and Central Valley Christian Academy (CVCA) boys’ basketball teams recently faced each other at the PUC Invitational Basketball Tournament.
The two schools often play against each other, and while friends, the competition is always stiff.
CVCA had come to the tournament with only five players, one nursing a hurt ankle. So, when they met in the playoff rounds, the suspense was high.
The game was close, with the lead never more than a few points either way. Midway through the second half, the player with the injured ankle could no longer play. This left the CVCA team with four players. The Lodi team had five players. It looked like it was going to be a five-to-four matchup.
As the CVCA coach gathered his team of four, and the whistle to restart imminent, spectators wondered if the game was figuratively over. The crowd could be heard murmuring understandable comments such as, “this game is over” and “this will be interesting.”
However, on Lodi’s bench, head coach Mike Unterholzner looked to his assistant and asked, “Just to confirm, we’re going with four, right?”
Fans sitting near could hear the assistant firmly say, “absolutely!” without hesitation.
At that point, the four remaining CVCA players took the floor, but as agreed, the Lodi team sent only four players out to keep the game even.
Although the Lodi team won, the game was fair because of a character-defining decision by the coach. This decision sent a clear message to the fans and the players that although a competitive sport, the value of good sportsmanship and fair play is paramount.
Another Lodi parent said, “It was a spine-tingling moment to see sportsmanship from our coaches and players like this. It made me proud of the character taught, learned, and exhibited by our coaches and players.”
One parent stated after the game, “Our Christian coaches find character-teaching moments in competitive sports by valuing sportsmanship, fair play, and attitudes toward winning and losing. How you play defines who you are, and true victory is measured not only by the final score but by how you treat your opponents.”
This is a life lesson many of the players took home that night.
Featured in Northern Lights, March 23, 2023