Ripon Christian’s Morgan Van Elderen saved the best for last Thursday night.
After hitting just three of her previous eight free throws against visiting Ripon, in the final 13 seconds Van Elderen made two free throws, two steals and a layup to help the Knights pull out a stunning 55-49 Trans-Valley League girls basketball victory in both teams’ regular-season finale.
The loss for Ripon (10-2, 19-8) forces a share of the league title with Livingston.
“I have kind of been facing slumps in the second half all season,” Van Elderen said. “But I looked up at that scoreboard and told myself I was not going to let it slip away that easy. We had to push, push, push and that’s what we did.
“I was putting pressure on that inbounds pass at the end and it was thrown right to me.”
With 17.9 seconds left and Ripon Christian (8-4 TVL, 15-10 overall) nursing a 50-49 lead, the two teams battled to a jump ball with the possession being granted to the Knights. The inbounds pass was tipped and Ripon Christian’s Natasha Smith recovered the ball, passing it to Van Elderen who was fouled and hit two free throws with 12.8 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession Van Elderen’s defense led to a turnover, and following a free throw by teammate Sarah Brown, Van Elderen converted a steal for the game’s final points.
Van Elderen finished with a game-high 31 points along with eight rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“She puts a lot of pressure on herself,” Knights coach Mike Vander Molen said of Van Elderen. “Her teammates were there for her.
“This was a rivalry game so funny things can happen. This was a great experience for the girls. It has been a tough year so it is so nice to have something positive happen.”
Lexi Hilvers was a force in the paint for Ripon Christian with eight blocks and two steals to go with her four rebounds and eight points behind a pair of 3-pointers.
“Our defense has been good all season,” Hilvers said. “We just went out there and gave it everything we had.”
The Indians had trouble from the free-throw line, converting just seven of 19.
“We didn’t shoot free throws very well,” Ripon coach Rick Inderbitzin said. “And when you don’t shoot free throws very well you have a hard time winning ball games.
“Ripon Christian did a great job of playing tough and hitting some shots. Hats off to them.”
The game was close all night with the six-point margin of victory matching just eclipsing the previous largest lead of the night at 18-13 for the Indians at the end of the first quarter.
Reina Sausedo led the Indians with 23 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and three assists. Kiley Holland just missed adding a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds with an assist.
The Sac-Joaquin Section playoff brackets will be announced on Saturday.
“We are big fans of each other now,” Van Der Molen said. “I am rooting for Ripon in the playoffs.”