RIPON – Sean Broker burrowed down in the post, a tree standing tall above the Tribe. Austin Alger danced around the perimeter.
And the Vander Molen cousins, hard-wired for hoops, worked all the in-between spaces.
Speaking of space, the Ripon Christian quartet created just enough of it on the scoreboard, carrying the Knights to an all-important, highly-coveted 70-60 victory at Ripon High.
All five starters scored in double figures for Ripon Christian (14-4), which now sits alone atop the Trans-Valley League at 4-0. The Knights have won five straight.
“Our goal is to win league this year,” point guard Danny Vander Molen said. “It was a big game, knowing the two of us are fighting for that championship.
“It means a little more because it is Ripon You don’t need to a big talk to get pumped for this game. It’s Ripon – you’re already hyped for the game.”
Travis Vander Molen scored 14 of his game-high 20 points in the second half. He also had 11 rebounds to complete his double-double.
Broker finished with a quiet 18 points and 13 rebounds. The sharp-shooting senior struggled from the floor, but helped seal the victory with two buckets in the final 3 minutes, 10 seconds.
Ultimately, Ripon Christian’s size and length wore down the smaller Indians (3-1, 12-9).
“I’m looking at the stats … They’re getting 38 points from their post and we’re getting 10,” Ripon coach Rod Wright said. “That’s kind of been what we’ve averaged all season. We don’t have a dominant post and Broker finally said near the end of the game, ‘Give me the ball, I’m going to post up.’
“What are we going to do? We’re out 50 pounds at that point.”
Danny Vander Molen finished with 12 points, while Kyle Colyn and Alger rounded out the scoring for the Knights with 10 points apiece.
“It is fun when everyone’s hitting their shots,” said Danny Vander Molen, the maestro in Ripon Christian’s up-tempo offense, “because we can be pretty unstoppable.”
Alger’s points came at crucial junctures in the game. His 3 in the third quarter stymied one run and ignited another.
Ripon closed to within one, 40-39, following a fastbreak layup by Cole Stevens with 5:24 left in the quarter. Up until that point, Ripon Christian was a shell of its former self. Turnovers were mounting and they were having trouble controlling the boards. Ripon’s run had reached six straight points and the crowd stirred with excitement.
Alger settled the Knights, stepping into 3 from the wing to widen the gap. Ripon Christian would reel off the next 11 points, opening up a 12-point cushion.
“We had a nice a little run going,” Wright scoffed.
The points would come from all directions and distances, too.
Broker tacked on a putback, Travis Vander Molen converted a traditional three-point play and Danny Vander Molen made it 51-39 with a 3-pointer of his own.
Try as it might, Ripon would get no closer than six the rest of the way.
“We just had to play together; play our game,” coach Vander Molen said about weathering Ripon’s third-quarter run. “It wasn’t any coaching.”
For two quarters, it looked like Aaron Paschini might shoot Ripon past the visiting Knights.
The slick sophomore had 15 points in the first half, including nine of his team’s 11 second-quarter points.
However, he was limited to just a 3-point field goal in the fourth quarter.
Cole Stevens and Mario Roach netted 14 points apiece for the Indians, who travel to winless Escalon on Friday.
Yet another example of how thorny the TVL has become: Escalon nearly upset RC last week.
Wright said his bunch better not stew on this loss for long, lest they become Escalon’s first victory.
“In this league, with this group of teams, I don’t care if you’re playing Escalon with no wins,” Wright said. “They’ll (Escalon) be ready to go on Friday.”
Ripon Christian 73,
Zach Cortright scored 23 points and Ty Biedleman had 17 for the Knights, who handed Ripon its first league loss.
The two are tied atop the TVL at 4-1.
Rhet Herrin and Ty Wells anchored Ripon’s attack with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Ripon Christian 22
Mitch Ulrich scored 11 points and Ripon (3-2) held its intra-city rival to just six total points in the second and third quarters.
Jake VanderHoek had a team-high 10 points for the Knights.