RIPON — Ripon Christian was eager to defend its home court in its own tournament.
And defend the Lady Knights did Thursday.
They held Hughson to just two first-quarter points and forced 27 turnovers en route to winning the 18th Annual Ripon Christian Heritage Classic championship, 42-26.
“Our defense the last few nights has been much, much better,” said Ripon Christian coach Ed Mulder, whose team rolls into Southern League play with a 7-2 record. “To hold a team like that to around 20 points isn’t easy.”
It’s been a while since Ripon Christian captured the tournament crown. Over the past seven years the Knights have placed second twice (2009, 2007). They went 1-2 in the other five.
“We talked about it before tonight’s game,” said RC’s second-year head coach who previously served as an assistant. “They wanted to know how long it’s been. I know when my daughters were here they won it and that was about 10 years ago. I don’t think we’ve won it since, so this meant a lot to them.”
All-tournament selection Morgan Alger led the way with 14 points and six rebounds. She was automatic with mid-range jumpers from the baseline, and her breakout performance was huge with twin sister Mikaela struggling to get untracked because of Hughson’s suffocating interior defense and foul trouble. Mikeala, the Knights’ leading scorer the last two seasons, picked up her fourth foul with 4:53 to go in the third — with RC leading 22-17 — and finished with eight points. She and sophomore point guard Teagan Manus four points joined Morgan on the all-tourney team. Kaylie Colyn contributed seven points, five rebounds and five assists.
“When Mikaela went down Morgan really stepped up,” Mulder said. “That’s the best game she has played all year. If we didn’t have her tonight it would have been a lot tougher for us.”
The Knights would have been hard press to have had it tougher than Hughson (7-5) did Thursday. The Huskies struggled from the free-throw line (6 of 20), and they went on a brutal 11-minute, 46-second stretch in the second half in which they failed to convert from the field. Ripon Christian outscored them 18-5 during that stretch and buried 14 of 22 free throws overall. Reserve guard Jenny Wickham made all five of her attempts from the stripe.
Bianca Trevino had six points and 10 rebounds for Hughson. She and Addie Garza (five points, six rebounds) earned all-tournament honors.
It was history repeated for Coach Dennis Hobby’s squad, which previously faced Ripon Christian at its own Lady Huskies Invitational on Dec. 10. Hughson started that game with a 1-for-16 dry spell from the field while spotting the Knights a 20-5 lead. Ripon Christian went on to win the title game, 52-46.
“They just made their shots and free throws and we didn’t,” Hobby said. “We got penetration and made some good passes, but once we’d get it there we’d either fumble the ball or just miss from point blank.
“Credit (Ripon Christian), though. They’re a good team that executes very well.”