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RC heads to fourth straight semifinal
Ripon Christians Jon Vander Molen soars to the basket as Delta Charter center Joseph Peebles reaches in to try and change the shot. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

RIPON — Ripon Christian overcame Delta Charter’s energy and aggression with composure and discipline on Friday.

The third-seeded Knights will make their fourth consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semifinal appearance after warding off the No. 11 Dragons from Tracy, 66-47.

Delta Charter (17-8), a third-year squad competing in the quarterfinal round for the first time, was gunning for another upset following its 71-64 stunner over No. 6 Elliot Christian. Ripon Christian (23-4) figured out right away that this was one it may have to scrap out.

Jon Vander Molen, who paced RC with 23 points and 11 rebounds, credited third-year point guard Danny Vos (12 points, 4 assists) for being a calming influence. Freshman Travis Vander Molen and reserve forward Eric Broker each chipped in with nine points.

“They were very physical and it took us a while to adjust to that, but once we adjusted we did a lot better,” Jon Vander Molen said. “I thought we did a good job of keeping our focus, especially Danny. He did a good job of getting the ball down the court and getting us into our sets.”

Although the Dragons never led, they were able to stay within reach with their athletic ability and 3-point shooting. They sank six 3-pointers — including buzzer beaters from shifty sophomore Drammell Pitts (14 points, four 3s) at the end of the first two periods — and several others from just inside the arc.

Ripon Christian led by as much as 21 — 43-22 with 3 minutes left in the third — before Delta Charter closed the gap to 11 early in the fourth.

Vander Molen’s three-point play sparked a 12-2 flurry that put it out of reach.

“We watched them play Elliot and they hung tough with them,” Ripon Christian coach Ron Vander Molen said. “They came out and played hard. I think their aggressive style led us to making some mistakes, but for the most part we handled it pretty well.”

The Knights were able to limit Delta Charter’s top scorer, 6-foot-5 senior Joseph Peebles (19.8 ppg), 10 points, but he found other ways to make his presence felt. Peebles also grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked four shots before fouling out with 3:29 remaining.

“I thought we played good defense, but we’re going to have to play better defense down the road against better teams,” coach Vander Molen said.

Sacramento powerhouse Capital Christian being one of them. The tournament’s 2 seed and defending champion takes on the Knights next Wednesday at Galt High starting at 7:30 p.m. The winner takes on No. 1 Central Catholic or No. 4 Brookside Christian for the section title on March 1 at Sleep Train Arena.