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Parity in D4 boys has Ripon, Lathrop believing

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Parity in D4 boys has Ripon, Lathrop believing

Joseph Sausau will be a part of school history Wednesday when the senior guard plays in Lathrop High’s first Sac-Joaquin Section playoff game. The Spartans open on the road against Encina in Divisi...

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

POSTED February 21, 2012 12:43 a.m.

Modesto Christian’s boys basketball team is the most talented in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.

It is also one of the most inexperienced.

The Crusaders claimed their sixth straight crown since joining the Trans-Valley League in 2006-07 but had their impressive streak of 104 straight conference wins threatened on several occasions.

That has some believing that the Division IV title is up for grabs. Ripon and Lathrop — seeded seventh and ninth, respectively — are among the darkhorse contenders looking to make some noise.

The postseason begins for boys on Wednesday except for the top-four seeded teams, such as Ripon Christian, in Division V.

Ripon (15-12) is the hottest and one of the more dangerous teams seeded in the middle of the Division IV bracket. The Indians won seven of their last eight and nearly stunned Modesto Christian in two three-point losses.

They host 10th-seeded Highlands (16-11), who claimed two of three games against Sierra Delta League champion San Juan. More noteworthy is Highlands’ 47-44 win over Central Catholic — the No. 2 team in the SJS Division V bracket — in the opening round of the Ripon Holiday Hoops Classic. The Scots went on to lose to Ripon 46-30 in the title round, so the two have already met.

Highlands has the size to make Ripon standout Jake McCreath work.

Jeremy Bubier, a 6-foot-7 center, is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder at 19.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while 6-6 Floyd Wormley checks in at 10.8 points and 6.6 boards.

Lathrop (14-12), a first-time playoff entrant, improved its seed by winning its final two Valley Oak League games but came up short of a first-round home game.

The good news for the Spartans is that their opener is winnable.

They face No. 8 Encina Prep (18-8) of the SDL in Sacramento. The Bulldogs have little in the way of benchmark wins this year and compete in a weak conference, while Lathrop was tested nightly in the Division-III Valley Oak League.

The bad news is they may have to play Modesto Christian earlier than they wanted to in the second round.

In Division V, No. 3 Ripon Christian (22-5) awaits the winner of the 6-11 matchup between Valley Christian (19-6) and Woodland Christian (19-7).

A win Friday would guarantee the Knights a spot in the NorCal playoffs and a likely semifinal showdown against No. 2 Central Catholic, one of two runaway favorites. Central and top-seeded Capital Christian were in Division IV last year.

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