RIPON -- There’s one thing worse than an ugly win.
An ugly loss.
Lathrop was able to avoid the latter, sneaking out with a 52-50 win over Ripon High Wednesday. Lathrop took its first lead at 32-29 midway through the third with a Mikey Pereznegron 3-pointer. The Spartans would have to hold on over the final four seconds as Ripon senior Cole Herrin raced the length of the court, getting off the final shot just after the buzzer sounded.
The Spartans overcame an early 10-2 Ripon, with what seemed to be like a Lathrop Spartans ‘B’ Team.
“We’ve had that same problem in practice,” Lathrop head coach Bill Slikker said of his team’s lackluster start. “I preach every day that you play like you practice and they got to see what I am saying. We start off practice slow every single day and coach Slikker blows a gasket about 10 minutes into practice.
“When you start a game down 10-4, stats don’t lie; we have to kick it in gear to start practice.”
The Indians came out clicking in the first quarter, getting points from four different players and forcing the Spartans into offensive inconsistencies. Ripon held a 25-22 advantage at the half, but saw Lathrop turn the tables by opening the third on a familiar 10-4 run.
Ripon did not seem to be in a offensive descent until the fourth when it could not convert a field goal through the first four minutes. The Indians got four free throws to keep things close, but another Pereznegron 3-pointer (46-39) forced the Indians into overdrive.
Ripon also came out and established itself on the glass, out rebounding the Spartans 17-12 in the first half, but losing the battle of the boards 15-7 in the second half. Lathrop got an inspired second half effort from junior Eric Spencer, who led Lathrop with a game-high 10 boards. Spencer also chipped in with six points.
“It’s important for me to work hard on the boards, but we do have our other bigs coming through too,” Spencer said. “We are all just trying to step are rebounding game up and try and do the things that we have to do to win.”
The win definitely held some importance for Slikker, who made his way back to his alma matter for the first time with his Spartans. The Lathrop head honcho had a formidable high school career playing for the Indians, so returning with an quality effort was definitely important to him.
“I did say it was important,” Slikker said about what he told his players pregame. “I try and find anything I can to fire up these kids. I told them I went to school here, I live here in Ripon now and I want to be able to walk around town and wear my Lathrop shirt so please make me proud and play like I played and bust your butt.
“I told them I was proud, I can wear my shirt because we did win, but we have to get a lot better.”
Herrin led Ripon with 13, while both Anthony Baciocco and Drew DeKruyf chipped in with eight. Robert Orantes led Lathrop with 15.