STOCKTON — Locked in a bitter struggle for three quarters and trailing by five points, Fletcher Jackson and second-seeded Ripon Christian stepped up down the stretch in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship Friday against No. 1 Sacramento Adventist at the University of the Pacific’s Spanos Center.
The Knights held Sacramento Adventist to just two free throws in the final period, and Jackson’s mid-quarter burst led them to a 58-51 win and 10th section championship banner — their first since 1996.
“Your offensive nights are going to come and go,” Ripon Christian coach Mark Hofman said. “And we had an average night offensively, shooting around 50 percent.
“But our defensive effort was tremendous. I think we wore them down with our effort and our depth.”
With 4 minutes left in the game and the Capitals (25-5) leading 50-49, Jackson took over. Having been stymied to that point with just four points, Jackson drained a 3-pointer for a 52-50 lead the Knights (19-9) would not relinquish. On the ensuing possession he blocked a shot and was then fouled, sinking two free throws.
“Fletcher hit a huge 3-pointer,” Hofman said. “He has been getting better every single game. He wasn’t a point guard and we have turned him into one. He has to call offenses and you have to know what defense the other team is in. He has to handle the press and know who to get the ball to. It’s very complicated, you have to make decisions quick and every game he is getting better at it.
“And he makes plays. We couldn’t be prouder of Fletcher. He is a very big reason we are here.”
After his two free throws, Jackson rebounded the next Sacramento Adventist miss and then broke up a Capitals fastbreak. At that point there was 1:08 left and Ripon Christian enjoyed a 56-50 lead. Sacramento Adventist would add just one more point.
Jackson finished with 10 points and four rebounds.
“I didn’t want to let any bad plays that we may have had get into my head,” Jackson said. “We had to just wrap it up.
“We came this far and I wanted to make sure we would keep going.”
There was no score for nearly three minutes in the fourth quarter when Austin Ries brought Ripon Christian within 49-46 on a sideline jumper with 5:02 showing on the clock. Seven seconds later, Andrew Vander Weide penetrated to the paint but opted to dish out to Jadon Vander Molen, who drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 49-49.
Sacramento Adventist then hit a free throw for its last lead of the game before yielding to Jackson’s onslaught.
“It was awesome,” Vander Weide said. “Jadon (Vander Molen) and I were a head taller than mostly everyone else under there giving us the advantage in getting rebounds.
“But it took effort — it wasn’t just gimmies. We had to fight under there.”
The Knights’ Cade Alger earned the SJS sportsmanship award. He and Vander Weide each finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
“We figured out at halftime that when we got the ball underneath they would double immediately,” Alger said. “When the guards would crash the boards they would dish off and that would get me the opportunity to score.”
Jacob Vander Hoek helped the punishing rebounding attack for Ripon Christian with seven rebounds, four of which were off the offensive glass.
“I’m glad I was able to contribute to the effort,” Vander Hoek said. “I’m so happy that we won.
“I’m happy for my friends because they did a great job and I am looking forward to our next game.”
The Capitals’ Griffin Trull led all scorers with 19 points.
Both teams will compete in the CIF NorCal Regional Championships beginning next Wednesday. The brackets to be released on Sunday.