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Knights cant hold early lead
Victory Christian shakes off slow start to advance to section semis
Ripon Christian center Tyler Goslinga struggles to maintain possession as Victory Christian’s Ethan Boolen tries to pull the ball free from his hands. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
CARMICHAEL — Duplicating a dramatic finish for victory isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be.

Earlier this season Ripon Christian trailed Victory Christian for almost an entire non-league contest until Arie Den Dulk hit the game-winning shot for a thrilling 56-54 win.

But when they met again on Victory Christian’s home court Friday night for a berth at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semifinals, the fourth-seeded Vikings got their sweet revenge, coming back from an early 11-point deficit to deal the No. 5 Knights a 47-41 defeat.

“It was a tough game tonight. It was our strengths against theirs, and they turned out to be the stronger team,” said Ripon Christian head coach Ron Vander Molen. “They played a good game tonight, and we struggled to find a defense that could stop them from moving the ball around and finding scoring opportunities.”

Just after winning the tipoff, Ripon Christian (16-12) came out firing and overpowered the Vikings with 6-foot-7-inch Tyler Goslinga, who racked up the Knights’ first four baskets and pulled down three rebounds in the first quarter to help establish what would be a 13-2 lead.

But Victory Christian (22-7) was far from giving up.

By the time that both teams retired to the locker rooms for halftime, the Vikings had closed the gap and trailed only 24-23 thanks to the sharp shooting of James Kuhle, who put up seven points down the second-quarter stretch that proved to be instrumental in the victory. He would finish the game with 16 points.

The comeback, coupled with Victory Christian’s aggressive defense, snatched away any of the momentum that the Knights had built up, and eventually allowed them to find their own hot streak when it mattered most.

Kuhle buried a 3-pointer with just over a minute left in the game to give the Vikings a 43-39 point lead with the added benefit of having the double bonus.

“We started strong tonight, I don’t really think defensively that they were ready for us,” said Goslinga – who finished with the game with his second straight double-double by racking up 17 points and 11 rebounds. “But they sunk the shots when it mattered most.

“When that guy (Kuhle) hit that three it was a crazy shot, and that pretty much knocked the wind out of us. They played a good game tonight.”

While Goslinga made his impact early in the game, it was David Vander Schaaf who provided the steady offensive production despite Ripon Christian’s inability to break through a stifling defense that prevented nearly any chance of finding open shots.

Vander Schaaf, who as a senior played his last high school basketball game Friday night, finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds.

“It’s a bummer to end the season this early, I was hoping that we were going to make it to the section finals,” Vander Schaaf said. “But it’s nice to be able to look back at this season and the key games that we won.

“It’s always a tough thing to come into somebody else’s house and play them on their home court, and they played a good game tonight.”

Steve Vander Molen also made an impact for Ripon Christian with his workman like performance, pulling down six rebounds as well as recording an assist, a steal, a block and two pints.

“I’m really proud of these kids and what they did this year – upsetting Ripon twice and everything that they accomplished this year,” Coach Vander Molen said. “I had hoped for a little better run in the playoffs, but Victory Christian deserves to be going to the next round after the game they played tonight.”

The Vikings will now play the winner of the contest between top-seeded Bradshaw Christian of Sacramento and Big Valley Christian of Modesto at Galt High School on Tuesday.