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MC takes sole possession of first place
Ripon’s Caleb Christian draws a foul on Modesto Christian’s Jimmy Escobedo during a fastbreak opportunity in the second quarter. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
RIPON — Only the running clock in the fourth quarter could slow Modesto Christian’s boys basketball team Tuesday.

The battle for the Trans Valley League’s top spot was decided early, as the three-time defending champion Crusaders proved that they are again the team to beat in their 76-31 throttling of Ripon.

Simply put, Modesto Christian (3-0, 9-8 overall) was too fast, too big and too good.
Isaiah Burse led MC’s balanced attack with 13 points, six assists and three steals. Modesto Christian made nine 3-pointers, including Joesue Chew’s buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter from near half court to stretch the Crusaders’ lead to 66-19.

Jimmy Escudero added 11 points, Brandon Baker had 10 and MC had 11 of 13 players score at least two.

As hot as the Crusaders were on the offensive end, they were more impressive on defense. Ripon (2-1, 10-10) didn’t convert a field goal for a 13-minute, 53-second stretch that started late in the first and ended when sophomore forward Jake McCreath rattled in a layup with 4:47 left in the third.

“It was just that overall, grinding (defensive) pressure,” Ripon coach Rod Wright said. “I don’t know what it was; it was almost as if we were not prepared for this game. It was disappointing, we took a step backwards.”

The Crusaders didn’t need to go to their suffocating full-court press to force Ripon into making mistakes in the first half, when the Indians had more turnovers, 17, than points scored. Modesto Christian fired in 18 unanswered points at one point in the opening half and was well ahead 41-11 by halftime.

Things snowballed in a hurry for the Indians after standout senior guard Matt Ratto, who entered the contest averaging 19.1 points per game, picked up three fouls in the first quarter — the third being a technical with 1:34 to go in the first and Ripon trailing 13-8.

Ratto sat for the remainder of the game for violating a team policy regarding technical fouls and finished with just three points.

Tyler Poole turned in five points and six rebounds to lead Ripon. McCreath and reserve Walter Fassler also scored five points apiece.

“Right from the get-go they had their up-in-the-face pressure and denied Ratto the ball, which made us put the ball in other people’s hands,” Wright said. “They’re the only team (in league) that can really deny Ratto the ball. Once he has the ball our offense flows.

“But without him in the game we obviously struggled.”

The Indians have little time to sulk with rivals Ripon Christian and Escalon up next to wrap up the first half of the TVL season. Ripon can improve its chances to qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs by beating both teams.

“I told the guys in the locker room to just forget this one and go back to work in practice tomorrow,” Wright said. “We have no choice, because our next two games are going to be tough.”

Ripon Christian 56, Hughson 43
RIPON — Tyler Goslinga grinded out 20 points and 11 rebounds to help the Knights (2-1, 15-3) get back on the winning track after dropping their first league loss to Escalon last Friday.

Daniel Van de Pol pumped in 16 points for RC. Dylan Terry and Foster Openshaw finished with 12 and 11, respectively, to lead Hughson.

Ripon Christian held a commanding 32-22 lead at halftime.

The Knights host Ripon Friday with tipoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.