The state champion football players are still getting their basketball legs under them, and there’s a 6-foot-7 transfer who still hasn’t played a game for Ripon.
Second-year coach Justin Graham said remains optimistic that these Indians can reach their full potential at some point this season, but until then they’ll take their lumps such the 57-53 setback against visiting Hilmar on Friday.
Through one week of the Trans-Valley League schedule, Ripon (1-1, 6-11 overall) is already playing catch-up as it seeks a fourth straight championship.
Justin Barros hit two of Hilmar’s four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including the dagger from the left wing with 26 seconds remaining. Nico Ilardi missed a contested runner in the lane on the Indians’ final possession, and Seth Miguel grabbed the defensive rebound to ice the win for the upstart Yellowjackets (2-0, 15-3).
“They just made big shots,” Graham said. “And they play good ‘D.’ They went back and forth between man and zone and I thought we did a good job of handling it, they just hit the big shots when they needed to and we didn’t.”
Aidan Azevedo led four Hilmar players in double figures with 15 points, Will Tate contributed 11 and Kyle Barcelos and Barros chipped in 10 apiece.
Troy Brogan paced Ripon with 14 points. The 6-foot-4 forward was among the stars on the CIF State Division 4-AA Bowl champion football squad. Malik Taylor and Aaron McDonough each scored 10 points, and Brayden Haines made three second-half 3s for his nine points that helped keep Ripon in the game.
While Brogan has played in 11 of the Indians’ 17 games, the rest of the late arrivals from the fall season have played less. The rust is still evident for a group that is in its fourth week as a complete team. Graham said that sophomore center Bronson Burrow, who transferred from Modesto Christian, may be able to begin competition with the team in two weeks if he is cleared by a doctor.
On Friday, the Indians struggled with unforced turnovers, missed layups and defensive breakdowns.
“When we got our football guys, I looked back at all of our practices and we already had half of our practices for the entire season,” Graham said. “It’s like we’re having to put two teams into one and trying to find this cohesiveness. Guys are trying to figure out what their roles are again because they’re always changing. It’s a process and the kids know that. We’re still working on it.”
It doesn’t get easier for Ripon, which travels to Riverbank next Wednesday before hosting longtime rival Escalon. Graham has little doubt his players will be ready to compete.
“We’ll get better,” he said. “I don’t have any concerns about that. We’ll still be competitive in every game. I still think we’re one of the best teams in our league.”
Ripon 64, Hilmar 41
The Indians held the Yellowjackets to seven points in the second quarter and three in the fourth.
Ripon’s Anthony Sausedo hit 13 of his game-high 21 points in the first half and Nolan Young added 15 points.