RIPON – Physically, Ed Mulder knew Ellen Blankers would be fine following knee surgery in the spring.
It was the mental aspect of her recovery that had the Ripon Christian girls basketball coach concerned.
Would Blankers, a two-sport athlete, be able to trust her new parts enough to tap into all that natural athleticism?
She answered any doubt on Tuesday evening, silencing Ripon’s top offensive weapon in a 35-29 victory.
Blankers finished with eight points and five rebounds, but it was her defensive effort on Zaire Davis that drew Mulder’s highest praise.
Davis was limited to just seven points as Ripon struggled to generate offense against the Knight’s height and length.
“She’s getting stronger and stronger all the time. That was never an issue,” Mulder said. “It’s the mental part after you go through a knee surgery; the mental part of being able to make a move and know it’s not going to happen again.”
Pamela Radach also finished with eight points as Ripon Christian shocked even its coach with the win.
The Knights (12-3) are now 3-1, one game back of front-running Riverbank and one game up on the Indians and Hughson. The top-three teams in the TVL qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Ripon Christian hosts Hughson on Thursday, while the sliding Indians look to regroup against Escalon.
Ripon, which had won three of the last four games against Ripon Christian, has now lost three straight games.
“It’s going to be a fight for us. This was a big win. It was one the girls had on their bucket list, so to speak,” Mulder said. “It gives us an idea of where we’re at. I thought Ripon was the second-best team in the league (behind Riverbank), and we beat them. So this was a big, big win for us.”
Ripon Christian earned it on the defensive end of the floor. The Knights held Ripon to just two second-quarter points and overcame an early 8-4 deficit.
Ripon Christian led 16-10 at the half and never looked back. Mulder said his club’s height gave Ripon fits.
Radach and Bailey Broker had nine rebounds apiece, while forward Carly Tillema finished with four points and 11 rebounds.
Blankers used her height advantage and reach to harass Davis, especially under the basket. Davis was just 3 of 14 from the field.
The Indians’ senior guard came into the game averaging more than 13 points per game. She’s been held to nine and seven points in Ripon’s last two games.
“(Blankers is) quite a bit taller,” Mulder said, “so underneath, she was able to keep her body straight up and redirect the shots.”
Jill Jamero led the Indians (2-2, 10-10) with eight points and Jourdy Richler had six.
Ripon Christian 48,
The host Knights turned in a complete effort, dispatching their city rival by 17 points.