RIPON — Jenny Wickham might be a little sore this morning.
No one hit the deck as much or as hard as Ripon Christian’s lanky shooting guard in Thursday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division V quarterfinal tilt against Woodland Christian.
“We’re not the toughest team physically, but we are mentally. We can push through something like that,” she said after the No. 4 Knights grinded out a 32-30 victory. “They were tough on defense. They’d grab and push you, and when those aren’t called you can’t get too frustrated.”
Wickham returned fire with the biggest shot of the game with 1:11 to go. Point guard Teagan Manus delivered the ball to the left wing, and the open Wickham took her time as she set up the go-ahead 3-pointer that gave the slow-starting Knights (20-6) their first and only lead, 31-30.
“I was wide open at the top of key, and I was like ‘Why not?’” said Wickham, who scored all seven of her points in the second half.
Manus led RC with nine points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Kaylie Colyn added eight points and six boards. Center Cassidy DeRousse pulled down 13 rebounds, none bigger than her last with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Fifth-seeded Woodland (25-4) came out of a timeout with 23.4 seconds left still down by 1. The Cardinals had a great look to jump ahead in the waning moments, as Carolyn Brady received the ball deep in the lane and with DeRousse guarding her. Brady’s layup fell short, and DeRousse came up with the defensive rebound after a brief scrum for the loose ball and was fouled on the play. She made one of two free throws with 4.6 seconds left.
“If I didn’t get that rebound I just knew they’d get it back, put it back up and win the game,” DeRousse said.
Rebecca Williams, Woodland’s 6-foot sophomore and leading scorer for the season, was held to just six points and eight rebounds. Guard Jordan Banwarth chipped in five points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
The fourth-seeded Knights struggled from the field for the first three quarters, as shots from the perimeter rattled in and out and attempts from point-blank were thwarted by Woodland’s superior length. The bigger issue was their lack of energy, especially at the outset.
Ripon Christian coach Ed Mulder said that nerves and overconfidence may have played a factor but placed most of the blame on the first-round bye. Woodland Christian had trouble putting No. 12 Le Grand away 45-41 in the opener. Le Grand was blown out twice by RC in Southern League play.
The Cardinals were the enforcer at the start, leading 11-6 after the first quarter and by as much as eight on two occasions in the second.
“We hadn’t played since last Monday — we were off for over a week and a half,” Mulder said. “The last three days of practice really lacked intensity, and I was afraid this would happen. We kept saying that you just can’t turn on the switch; you have to have it at all times. We came out with the same intensity that we had in practice, and we were fortunate that we made some shots in the end.”
Ripon Christian did enough to qualify for its third NorCal appearance in four years. The reward: A semifinal meeting with defending state champion Brookside Christian of Stockton — a 110-24 winner over Central Catholic Thursday — next Wednesday at Galt High.
“If we play like this we’ll probably get blown out,” Mulder said.