GALT — The Ripon Christian girls basketball team couldn’t keep up with the speed of Brookside Christian.
For the boys, it was a test of toughness in trying to negate Capital Christian’s advantage in sheer size.
Both Ripon Christian squads battled valiantly as underdogs, but they had their Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoff runs end in the semifinals Wednesday at Galt High. Brookside of Stockton blitzed the Lady Knights 85-37, and Capital overcame a rough shooting night to claim the boys contest, 41-31.
The third-seeded Ripon Christian boys (23-5) hung tough with the powerful Cougars (23-4) from Sacramento, mixing a man-to-man defense with a 3-2 zone to stay within range after trailing 15-6 to start the second quarter. Second-seeded Capital was held to just two points in the second but still led 17-11 as RC endured its share of offensive woes.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Ripon Christian coach Ron Vander Molen said. “We’ve been playing good defense all year. I did not know if we could do it against these guys and they did. I thought we were going to be outmatched and I don’t think we were.”
Outsized but not outworked, Dalton Koslowsky and Clayton Blankers did not shy away from banging in the post with the likes of 6-foot-6, 245-pound sophomore Trey Belton (seven points, nine rebounds) and 6-6, 275 Nifae Lealao, Jr. — a touted NCAA Division-I football prospect as a defensive end. Lealao finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, all game-highs.
D.J. Wilson, a wiry 6-8 wing, and 6-5 Nick Aubuedefe also bothered the Knights with their length. Ripon Christian had nearly every shot challenged in the post, and it was outrebounded 12-5 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s very different than what we see in the Southern League, said the 6-2 Koslosky (six points). “They have 10 times the size of teams we usually see, but we held our ground pretty well.”
Ripon Christian could not shoot itself out of a rare off night. Jon Vander Molen (four points) never got on track and the Knights as a whole were bothered by Capital’s athleticism, which helped it force 21 turnovers. Point guard Dan Vos typically gets assists by the bundle but had just two to go with nine points.
Freshman Travis Vander Molen paced the Knights with 10 points. He scored the game’s first points with a put-back layup 33 seconds in. That represented their only lead.
“Offensively, we struggled,” Coach Vander Molen said. “The guys tried to force each other to play that style in practice. We did on defense, but not on offense.”
Ripon Christian’s girls (20-7) also tried to simulate speed it is not accustomed to in practice. The No. 4 Knights started out well against No. 1 Brookside (25-4), the defending state champion in Division V. Jenny Wickham scored 10 of her 15 points in the first quarter and sank three 3s. Her trey with 5:15 left in the opening frame made it 8-8. Brookside countered with a 20-7 run, and its relentless, wire-to-wire press wore down RC.
Ripon Christian turned the ball over 41 times, 35 of them from Brookside steals.
“We knew they were going to be really fast,” Wickham said. “We worked on trying to break their press in practice to get a feel for it, but we’re nowhere near as fast as they are.
“We knew they’d come out strong after beating Central Catholic by about 80 (110-24 in the quarterfinals). Our goal was to keep (the margin) lower than that and we did. Right now our attitudes are great. We don’t care that we lost, because we played well as a team.”
Teagan Manus added 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Brookside star Tiara Tucker pumped in 32 points and 10 steals. Raky’ra Gabriel had 18 points, six boards and four steals. Breanna Grisby contributed nine points, 10 rebounds and four steals.
Brookside Christian takes on No. 3 Capital Christian — a 60-40 winner over Turlock Christian — for the section’s Division-V girls championship Friday at Sleep Train Arena. Tipoff is 4 p.m., and the D-V boys final follows at around 5:30.