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Crusaders clinch TVL title in rout
UCLA-bound Nelson too much for Ripon to handle
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RIPON — The presence of UCLA-bound senior forward Reeves Nelson did little to rattle the nerves of the Ripon Indians, who already faced the standout earlier this season.

With the Crusaders pushing the pace with a relentless scoring attack, Ripon came out and answered shot for shot, allowing Nelson the driving lane he needed for a showcase dunk only once in a quarter, while the Indians relied on the inside post play of Ryan Alexander to both score buckets and immobilize their big threat.

It worked at first. But once Modesto Christian managed to establish control of the ball and create an offensive rhythm, the game shifted dramatically at the start of the second half.  Nelson pounded away under the basket and dunked seemingly at will — finishing the night with 36 points — and the Crusaders coasted their way to a 96-65 victory and the outright Trans Valley League championship Friday night.

“We came out and we played with them for about a quarter and a half,” Ripon head coach Rod Wright said. “After that – with two big guys like they have that grab rebounds and tips all night – you just have to wait for the ball and get what you get.

“I had no illusions coming into this game with the talent that they have, and I really thought that we started off the game really well and came out firing – it just isn’t enough when you’re facing a team like that.”

Alexander carried the role of the inside threat for the majority of the first quarter – scoring six points that helped Ripon stay afloat, as they tried to wear down Modesto Christian’s relentless attack. Before the end of the half, he added another bucket as well as three rebounds to his totals to help Ripon stay competitive with a score of 27-23.

Things for the Indians began going downhill quickly from that point on – starting with the five straight scoring opportunities that Nelson converted at the beginning of the half.

Nelson finished with 36 points as well as six rebounds, three blocks, two steals, and an assist. Guard Liautaud Prophete also helped the Crusaders stay potent with his 16 points, and Jonny Hutton was there to contribute 13.

Ripon had Alexander and Ryan Baker – who also had four steals – led their offensive push with 14 points apiece. Efren Sifuentes was not far behind with 13.

With the loss, Ripon (4-4, 13-12), will to look to rebound for a rematch against cross-town rival Ripon Christian Wednesday night that will have major postseason implications for both squads. The game is set for tip off at 7:30 p.m.

Ripon Christian 44, Hughson 39
Ripon Christian was able to hold on to a narrow lead at the end of a key TVL battle with the Hughson Huskies.

With the score at 39-36 with 2:33 left on the clock, the Knights relied on a series of offensive production to clinch the victory – starting with Tyler Goslinga’s two free throws and Steve Vander Molen’s two-point bucket with just a minute left.

Vander Molen iced it with a free throw with only 22 seconds on the clock.

Daniel Van De Pol and Vander Molen both finished the game with nine points apiece.

“Daniel and Steven led us offensively in the second half, but it was really the defense that made the difference,” Ripon Christian coach Steve Vander Molen said.

With the win, Ripon Christian improves to 5-3 in the TVL and 14-10 overall. They’ll host cross town rival Ripon on Wednesday.