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Knights avenge losses to former SL rival
BBSK--Mariposa-Ripon Christian pic 1 copy
Ripon Christians Danny Vander Molen blows past Noah Rockwood of visiting Mariposa for an easy transition bucket in a reunion of former Southern League rivals Friday night. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

RIPON — Ripon Christian may no longer be in the Southern League for basketball, but its growing rivalry with Mariposa lives on.

They reunited Friday night for Ripon Christian’s first official home game of the season, and the Knights exacted revenge with a 63-47 victory. Last year, Ripon Christian was favored to garner a fourth straight SL title but was swept by Mariposa. The two teams since graduated just three players combined.

“Losing to them last year stunk,” Ripon Christian guard Danny Vander Molen said. “It put a little fire in the team. We knew that we could see them again in the playoffs so we needed to make a statement.”

The rivalry resumed Friday at a breakneck pace, and the officials looked to keep the players’ aggression in check by calling 13 fouls in the first quarter. Toward the end, things got a little chippy as two players were warned for trash talking. Perhaps this was just a warm-up of what’s to come for Ripon Christian (5-2) as it returns to the Trans-Valley League to rejoin old foes such as Ripon and Escalon.

“I’m sure there will be plenty of these in the TVL,” Ripon Christian coach Ron Vander Molen said.

It was a back-and-forth struggle for the first 10 minutes. The Knights opened up a 9-2 lead but trailed 23-18 early in the second quarter. They ended the half with a 14-4 run, and Danny Vander Molen keyed the Knights’ 11-2 spurt to jump start Ripon Christian’s second half. Ripon Christian led 43-29 at the end of that decisive flurry and never looked back.

Vander Molen accounted for seven of his team’s points in the third-quarter rally and finished with 12 points and five assists. Sean Broker led all scorers with 21 points to go with seven rebounds. Austin Alger pitched in with 13 points. Danny Vander Molen came up short of a triple-double with eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

 “My guys played smart and good, solid basketball,” coach Vander Molen said. “They played as a team.”

As well as Ripon Christian played offensively, it was defense that won the game. Jadin Battles, Mariposa’s energetic 6-foot-4 center, gave the Knights trouble in the post early on. He had 12 points and five rebounds in the first half but settled for 13 and nine by game’s end. Kama’Re Bailey also scored 13 points for the Grizzlies (6-4).

The Knights went to a zone defense midway through the second quarter, giving Battles and Mariposa ball handlers smaller lanes to operate with inside the paint.

“Defensively, we’re not strictly man and we’re not strictly zone,” coach Vander Molen said. “We’re going to try and figure out what’s going to work the best on that night against that team. We made the adjustment to the zone and we hadn’t played it much at all this year. They picked it up and I credit them for being smart basketball players and adjusting.”

Danny Vander Molen added that it was nice to finally play in front of familiar faces again. It was the only home game for Ripon Christian this month. The Knights did play a Foundation Game against East Union back on Dec. 1, but it doesn’t count against records. They’ll be in action again next week in the Oakdale Rotary Classic and return home Jan. 3 to face Big Valley Christian.

“We play good in this gym,” Vander Molen said. “It’s a longer court than most and it helps us run our fastbreak and wears teams down. It plays to our advantage.”