Ripon Christian made a statement Tuesday with a 62-44 Trans-Valley League win over visiting Hilmar.
"We needed this game if we're to stay in the (title) hunt," said Knights coach Mark Hofman, who was quick to praise his team's defensive efforts.
Offensively, Braden Van Groningen led all scorers with 22 points. He also hauled in nine rebounds including six on the offensive glass.
The 6-foot-4 junior forward knew that defense was the key against the Yellowjackets, who suffered their first loss in league play.
"They have a lot of good (outside) shooters," said Van Groningen, who did most of his scoring from inside the paint.
Ripon Christian (3-1 TVL, 13-5 overall) closed out so effectively along the perimeter on defense that Hilmar (3-1, 16-4) didn't sink a single 3 during the game.
Eli Terpsma along with Will Gilbert, Lukas Van Groningen and Jacob Van Groningen were among those who hounded the Yellowjackets from outside.
Terpsma, a 6-1 freshman guard, was playing in just his second game at the varsity level. He impressed his coaches with his already-seasoned game and contributed with five rebounds, two steals and a block.
"Eli is fast and knows exactly where to put the ball. He also provides relief on the ball pressure," Hofman said.
The turning point of the game occurred in the second quarter. That's when the Knights outscored the Yellowjackets, 13-5.
Prior to that, RC displayed moments early on that kept Hilmar a bit off balanced.
Jacob Van Groningen had a behind-the-back pass to Braden Van Groningen on a two-on-one situation for two. Caleb Terpsma later converted on three-point play to close out the first quarter, sinking the free throw to give his team a 15-12 advantage.
The Knights built up on that lead in the second with an 11-4 run.
Braden Van Groningen scored on a put-back while Lukas Van Groningen hit a fade-away and Caleb Terpsma buried a 3.
That was more than enough to give RC a 28-17 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Knights continued to get balanced scoring. Gilbert, Lukas Van Groningen and Jacob Van Groningen, who chipped in with 11 rebounds and four steals, delivered from the beyond the arc.
Trailing 48-32, Hilmar, behind the play of Aiden Azevedo, went on a 7-2 run to kick off the final quarter, trimming RC's lead to 11.
Reed Van der Hoek took an inside pass from Gilbert for a basket and Braden Van Groningen slipped past the defense at halfcourt by driving to the hoop for another two.
RC had a 20-point cushion while taking the air out of the ball in the final three minutes.
Gilbert finished with nine points, and Lukas Van Groningen, Caleb Terpsma and Jacob Van Groningen had seven points each for RC.
Azevedo led Hilmar with 16 points to go along with six rebounds and three steals.
Will Tate chipped in with 11 points.
The Knights will face Riverbank on Thursday and rival Ripon High on Saturday.