WEED — Domination from the jump.
In front of a packed house and highly partisan crowd at Weed High School, Ripon Christian showed little effects from the grueling bus ride north and came out of the gates on fire Tuesday night, starting on a 10-2 run and never looking back in a 79-42 win for the CIF NorCal Division VI basketball championship.
As he had all year, Braden Van Groningen was solid for the Knights (26-7), racking up a double-double with 26 points and 19 rebounds along with three steals.
“We had to drive five-plus hours to get here,” Groningen said. “It just seemed like it was a really long drive and I was hoping it was not going to affect the way I played or the team played.”
Van Groningen’s partner in crime under the boards was Reed Van der Hoek, whose tall frame forced the Cougars (23-5) to give up on attacking the basket as they tried to do at the start. Van der Hoek finished with 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks along with four points.
“When Reed (Van der Hoek) plays well, we are very hard to beat,” Ripon Christian coach Mark Hofman said. “With him and Braden (Van Groningen) in the paint, there is not a lot that other teams can do. His defense, his rebounding and his contesting of shots are huge, and if you block one or two they stop attacking.
“Braden gave them trouble in the offensive post and we shared the ball really well. Tonight we looked for who had the open shot and who had the advantage on offense and we got that person the ball. Whoever they took away we just changed it from quarter to quarter. The balance on offense was the key.”
The Knights defense really turned it up in the third quarter, holding Weed to just five points. Jacob Van Groningen (13 points, 12 rebounds, four steals, assist) spearheaded that blitz with three steals in the period, one of which he took coast to coast for a layup.
“The third quarter is when we finish teams and put them into the ground,” Jacob Van Groningen said. “I increased my intensity a lot in that quarter and keep us fired up.”
Will Gilbert (12 points, seven rebounds, steal) helped Ripon Christian get off to its fast start when the Knights put up 23 first-quarter points.
“We are a really great team in transition,” Gilbert said. “This court is a little smaller than we are used to but if you push the ball you can get a lot of quick, easy points.”
Jivarqua Jordan-Foster scored 21 points to pace Weed.
This is the fourth NorCal championship for the Knights, but the first in more than 20 years. Hofman and other coaches on the staff won some of the earlier championships.
“They don’t have to listen to our stories anymore,” Hofman said. “They finally have their own banner.
“They have their own story now.”