RIPON — Vincent Olmo is a big boy, and he used all of his 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame at just the right time Friday night.
With his Ripon Indians locked in a bitter tie with Bret Harte of Angels camp and time running down in opening-round action of the Ripon Winter Classic, Olmos smashed a block for teammate Cole Stevens to rebound. Stevens got a layup on the other end and the Indians added two more points in the final 30 seconds to defeat the Bullfrogs 64-60 at Ripon High.
“I saw the guy driving baseline and I just came over to help,” Olmo said. “And I ended up getting the block.
“We were down and we finally started getting some stops and we ended up coming back and winning.”
Olmo’s block helped keep Bret Harte (3-4) scoreless for the final 3 minutes, 31 seconds.
“We thought Olmo played really big in the middle,” Wright said. “He got the block and then we got the layup at the other end.
“That was a big block.”
Paschini flirted with a double-double, scoring 23 points and grabbing nine steals along with six rebounds.
“Coach always talks about defense being first,” Paschini said. “Sometimes I gamble and I get lucky with it.
“A lot of kids on our team are sick and injured and we came out slow. But we turned it up in the second half and got the win.”
The Indians (6-3) fell behind early in the first quarter and stayed behind until midway through the third period when a pair of steals by Paschini along with three-point plays by Stevens and Anthony Sisk (10 points, four steals) and a field goal and 3-pointer by Paschini turned a 41-36 deficit into a 47-43 lead with 4:27 left in the period.
“It was a nice spurt,” Wright said. “Aaron (Paschini) got a couple of steals in there to energize us along with some three-point plays we got back into it.”
After the Indians retook the lead midway through the third period, there were four ties and three lead changes the rest of the way.
“It was kind of a Jeckyll and Hyde type of game,” Wright said. “The energy wasn’t there, and then all of a sudden it was and they did real well. This was one of those up-and-down type of things.
“Our main concern at halftime was being able to play defense and at times we just didn’t have the energy on defense. When we play good defense we get transition offense, which is what we have to play.”
Stevens (10 rebounds) had 12 of his 18 points in the first half, but no basket was bigger than his layup after Olmo’s block to put Ripon ahead for good at 62-60 with 1:05 remaining.
“Our coach keeps telling us that we are not a first-half team,” Stevens said. “We have to come out with more energy like we do in the second half.
“The second half we come out a little bit stronger but it is still a work in progress.”
Inderpal Dhaliwal of Bret Harte shared high-point honors with Paschini at 23.
The Indians face Stagg of Stockton for the championship today at 6:30 p.m. at Ripon High.