GALT – The Ripon Christian girls basketball team stunned No. 1 Woodland Christian Wednesday 52-46 to advance to Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 finals at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena.
They’ll play either No. 2 Argonaut or No. 3 Capital Christian during the 4 p.m. title game on Friday.
“In my years here, we’ve reached the semifinals (at Galt) but that’s it,” said RC senior Ellen Blankers, who hit a key baseline jumper in the win over the Cardinals.
The No. 4 seeded Knights (16-7) played catch-up through most of the game. But the tide changed during a 50 second scoring spurt at about the final three minutes.
Down 44-37, RC made its move as Pamela Radach got her shot to drop. Carly Tillema trimmed the lead 44-41 with her basket at the 2:44 mark.
Elisabeth Regusci found Blanker at her favorite spot from 15 feet out on the baseline. She hit that to make it a one-point deficit.
Regusci then delivered the go-ahead basket, nailing 3 from the wing. Jessica Orozsco capped off the 12-0 rally with 1:26 remaining by also hitting a trey.
“Once we got one shot to fall (in that stretch) it seemed as if everybody started hitting,” said Tillema, who finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Still, Woodland Christian (25-4) had standout Rebecca Williams, who had taken over the game in stretches.
Of her game-high 16 points, she managed just two free throws in the final minute.
“The last minute seemed like it went forever,” Blanker said.
The Cardinals closed the gap to 49-46. But free throws by Orozsco and Regusci put the game on ice for RC.
That’s in stark contrast compared to the start of the game. The Knights converted just once during their first 19 possessions, falling behind 15-3 early in the second quarter.
“I was concerned at that point,” RC coach Ed Mulder said. “We just couldn’t get our shots to drop.”
Further frustrating the Knights was the full-court press by Woodland Christian.
“They came out with intensity,” said Mulder. “We fought back – it was our defense that kept us in the game.”
The Knights continued to pound the ball inside, feeding Tillema and Pamela Radach, who netted 10 points with six boards, a block and a steal.
Regusci chipped in with 11 points to along with seven assists. She stroked a 3 as RC scored 11 unanswered points in the second, closing the gap, 15-14.
Woodland Christian, behind the play of Williams, closed out the half with a 7-2 run.
Despite their share of turnovers, the Knights stayed with their game plan. They waited for the opportune time to strike back.
“We played those tough games in the Trans Valley League – I think that helped us today,” Mulder added.
The last time RC reached the section finals was 2003.