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Crusaders struggle in blowout of Ripon
Modesto Christian point guard Mariah Brown splits the defense of Ripon’s Alissa Vickers (5) and Ruth Waters during a battle between the Trans Valley League’s two top teams at Ripon High Tuesday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
RIPON — Most teams wouldn’t nitpick over a 28-point victory.

But Modesto Christian’s regarded girls squad isn’t like most teams.

On Tuesday, Coach Robb Spencer was hardly impressed by his Crusaders’ 56-28 shelling of Ripon High, unquestionably the Trans Valley League’s biggest threat to MC’s four-year championship reign.

Danielle Thompson had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Crusaders (4-0, 10-7 overall). Freshman Charise Holloway added 12 points and 10 rebounds, and though Alexus Tillman had just three points she collected nine steals.

Modesto Christian has the luxury of looking ahead to tougher games on its already-brutal non-league schedule, and these sparring sessions in the TVL are used to build up for them.

On Feb. 5, the Crusaders host powerful Sacramento High, and four days later they head to Stockton to face an even stiffer challenge in St. Mary’s — the state’s defending Division III champion. They were coming off Saturday’s impressive 86-60 non-conference thumping of rising Division-I juggernaut McNair-Stockton.

“We have bigger plans down the road,” Spencer said. “Sac High and St. Mary’s are coming in a couple of weeks, and if we play like this we’re going to get murdered. Hopefully, this is a wake-up call and that we finally get it.”

For Ripon (3-1, 13-4), it was an impressive effort after trailing 17-4 in the first quarter. Defensively, the Indians did what they set out to do until showing some wear late in the final period.

Modesto Christian averaged 91.7 points in its first three TVL contests of the season.

Ripon remained within reach by halftime down 25-12, then 38-22 after the third.

“We played really hard this game,” Ripon senior Kendra Contente. “Hopefully this prepares us better for our next game and for when we see them again.”

Contente typified the Indians’ gritty play, finishing with nine points, five rebounds and five steals. Center Rachel Rodriguez, also a senior, also scored nine points.

As well as Ripon played defensively, it was simply outgunned in other areas.

Modesto Christian forced 14 of Ripon’s 32 turnovers in the opening quarter, and its suffocating full-court press led to a 12-1 burst that completely broke it open in the end.

What also hurt was Modesto Christian’s dominance of the boards. Ripon was outrebounded 41-23, and MC matched the Indians’ total off the offensive glass alone.

“We forced them to take quick shots and we were in good (rebounding position) for the most part, but a lot of them were long rebounds,” Ripon coach George Contente said. “They’re a good team, very athletic, but we were right there with them.

“We were able to do some of the things that we wanted to do, we just need to execute better and get into our offense faster.”