It’s out with the old and in with the old in the Trans-Valley League.
For basketball only, Ripon Christian is back in the TVL and reunites with traditional rivals, while dominant Modesto Christian has moved to the Modesto Metro Conference to compete with Division-I and –II sized schools. The Crusaders’ boys and girls squads captured the last eight TVL titles. First-year Mountain House also joins the league but fields only lower-level teams.
Ripon Christian boys coach Ron Vander Molen expressed a desire to return to the TVL in the past and gets his wish. The Knights ran the table in the Southern League for three straight seasons until dropping two to Mariposa and settling for second place last year.
With Modesto Christian out of the picture it is a wide-open race for both the boys and the girls, making every game intriguing. Five out of the six boys teams sport winning records, and five out of the six girls squads have anywhere from six to eight victories going into their first league contests.
The ladies are up first Thursday with Ripon (8-7) traveling to Hughson (3-7) and Ripon Christian (8-2), hosting Hilmar (6-7). The Ripon rivals may be the early favorites.
Ripon Christian boasts the best nonleague record despite graduating four starters that led the Knights to at least a share of the last three SL championships. Ripon, though, is the most battle-tested and is spearheaded by scrappy Zaire Davis, one of the area’s top breakout players. Riverbank (6-7) will of course have some say with arguably the best player in league in fourth-year point guard Olivia Luu. Hughson has a prolific scorer in 5-foot-10 senior Jessica Garcia.
Ripon’s boys (9-7) welcome Hughson (10-5) on Friday while Ripon Christian (10-4) heads to Hilmar (9-7). Ripon Christian (10-4) had a successful run through its pre-league schedule which included a 72-43 thrashing of Hughson in the Oakdale Rotary Classic title game. Sean Broker, averaging 22.5 points and 7.4 rebounds, is an early MVP candidate for Ripon Christian.
Ripon has been led by a potent trio of guards in Cole Stevens (15.5 ppg), Mario Roach (13.6 ppg) and Aaron Paschini (13.1). Hughson, despite its lopsided nonleague loss to RC, should still be a factor as the league’s most experienced squad with its all-senior starting lineup. Riverbank owns the worst record at 4-10 but played a tough pre-league schedule and remains dangerous.