ROSEVILLE — Ripon Christian gave defending champion Valley Christian all it could handle in their Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI semifinal Monday, even with its standout fourth-year point guard going down with a knee injury.
Sarah Brown helped pick up the scoring slack with her team-high 17 points and five 3-pointers, but the fourth-seeded Knights came up short, 56-53. They missed two shots to tie it from behind the arc in the closing seconds.
Morgan Van Elderen hurt her knee in the second quarter and tried to play through the pain before bowing out early in the third. She finished with nine points in her limited time, but it was her all-around contribution that was missed the rest of the way. Van Elderen averaged 14.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.7 steals in the regular season.
“That was a big hit for us, but I’m really proud of the girls,” Ripon Christian coach Mike Vander Molen said. “We were able to come back a couple times and took a one-point lead, we just didn’t have enough firepower. It was a good battle and the kids played tough.”
Ripon Christian (16-11) staked a 27-20 halftime lead. Top-seeded Valley Christian (23-1) took control after Van Elderen left the floor, outscoring the Knights 21-11 in the third period.
The Lions were paced by three underclassmen who combined for all but six of their points — Christelle Williams with 21, Gracie Williams 16 and Kalista Larson nine. Gracie Williams came alive in the second half when she poured in 13 of her points. She also buried four of Valley’s five 3s.
Ripon Christian totaled nine 3s. Lexi Hilvers and Lydia Bakker contributed seven points apiece. It’s the second straight year that Ripon Christian was eliminated by the top seed in the semifinal round.
Valley Christian meets No. 2 Forest Lake Christian (22-5) — a 57-35 winner over No. 3 Sacramento Adventist in the other semifinal — in the championship round Thursday morning at Golden 1 Center. Tipoff is set for 10.
Valley Christian was the second seed last year when it toppled Forest Lake of Auburn 56-50 for the section title. FLC is responsible for the Lions’ lone loss of this season, 63-58 in overtime. Valley has won 21 straight since.