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DEFENSE SPARKS RIPON

Contente’s all-around play leads Indians

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DEFENSE SPARKS RIPON

Sierra High center Lia Unterholzner tries to retain possession after Ripon's Kendra Contente slaps the ball free in the post.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED December 1, 2010 2:48 a.m.
RIPON — With neither team establishing any kind of offensive groove or consistency early on, Ripon High went to its pressure defense to get things going against Sierra in the 2010-11 season opener for both girls basketball teams Tuesday.

The first-game rust was obvious, but Kendra Contente’s tone-setting effort on both ends of the court was the difference in Ripon’s 41-37 victory.

The fourth-year varsity starter produced game-highs 17 points — nine courtesy of three key 3-pointers in the second half —and six steals to go with five rebounds.

“She’s a difference-maker,” Ripon coach George Contente said of Kendra, his daughter. “We have some younger girls adjusting to the (varsity) speed of the game, so we’ve had some seniors step up and she’s one of them.”

Ripon got big contributions from its other fourth-year senior, 5-foot-10 center Rachel Rodriguez, who added 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
 
It all started on the defensive end for the Indians (1-0), who were drubbed by Manteca 64-34 in a Foundation Game the previous night.

Ripon forced 24 turnovers Tuesday, leading to fastbreak buckets or foul-shooting opportunities off the breakaways. The Indians opened the second half with two straight transition layups, and Contente hit a 3 with 4:20 left in the third to cap a 9-2 run and open up their first 10-point lead (29-19) of the contest.

“We talked to the kids about being smarter and not getting out of position as much,” coach Contente said. “We still had problems here and there, but it was a lot better than it was (Monday). It’s nice to start out the season with a win, and the Foundation Game gave us an idea of what we had.”

“We’ve got some speed and we have to use that to our advantage. Our defense is what feeds our offense.”

There wasn’t much that seemed to go Sierra’s way.

Its best 3-point shooter, Michelle Arroyo, went down with an ankle sprain — a reaggravated injury stemming from the volleyball season — late in the first quarter.

That wasn’t a good sign for a team that couldn’t get anything to drop from beyond 8 feet of the rim.

Point-blank shots were no gimmies either; there were a few sequences in which it took second, third and even fourth attempts in the same possession to get the ball to fall through the hoop.

“What really hurt us in the first half was when Michelle Arroyo got hurt,” Sierra coach Steve Unterholzner said. “She’s a big leader on this team, so I think it took them a quarter to (adjust) without her.”

Then there was the foul trouble.

Starting forward Alysia Atkins — the Sierra’s scoring leader with 10 points — picked up her fourth infraction early in the third before fouling out with 1:30 remaining. Center Lia Unterholzner was also gun shy for picking up too many early fouls.

And through it all, Sierra (0-1) somehow found itself in position to make Ripon sweat a little in the end, mounting a nice comeback in the final 2 ½ minutes after trailing 38-29 on Contente’s third 3-pointer.

Jasmine Currimao drained the Timberwolves’ only 3-pointer on their final shot of the game with 10 seconds to go, but they were unable to foul Contente after the ball was inbounded to extend the contest.

“We showed some heart and didn’t give up,” Unterholzner said. “We were in position to do something there at the end.

“Ripon is a much better team than the one that lost to Manteca in the Foundation Game. There is no shame losing to this team.”

The Timberwolves managed to stay within striking distance because of Stephanie Vanni’s (7 points, 3 steals) scrappy play and reserve Jordan Johnson’s (8 points, 19 rebounds) relentlessness on the boards.

Sierra won the rebounding battle handily, 39-24.

“At one point Jordan was pulling her own shirt trying to come out of the game tonight, but I had nobody else to put in because of foul trouble,” Unterholzner said. “She was a workhorse today. She played anywhere from the 3 (small forward) to the 5 (center).”
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