HILMAR — Ripon owns Hilmar.
The Ripon High varsity boys basketball team has now won 15 consecutive contests over Hilmar dating back to the 2004-05 season, including eight straight at Hilmar.
Tuesday’s outcome was no different after a nail-biting final 31 seconds in the Trans-Valley League opener.
Hilmar had possession with the opportunity to take the final shot with the score tied and 10 seconds remaining, but Ripon’s Aaron Paschini stole the ball from Alec Cano and sprinted down the opposite end for a three-point play.
The Indians were able to fend off Hilmar in the final 2.4 seconds for a 53-50 win despite a slow start.
“I thought we were going to overtime, honestly, and then I don’t think we would’ve won then,” said Ripon head coach Rod Wright. “Credit to Hilmar for playing so well, but the difference was we made our free-throws late in the game and that is where we always struggle.”
Hilmar built a 14-7 lead after the end of the first quarter. Ripon (1-0 TVL, 13-3 overall) then settled in the second and outscored Hilmar 23-13 after going on a 15-0 run midway through the second. Paschini had five of his 18 points and forced five Hilmar (0-1, 6-5) turnovers in that four-minute span.
“It’s very tough for us to come to Hilmar even though we have had previous success, so I told the guys to be ready to come out and play,” Wright said “We had a lot of turnovers and didn’t convert, but luckily we got that steal at the end. Aaron (Paschini) is such a tough player.”
Paschini also finished with seven steals and two blocks.
Hilmar closed out the second with a 13-8 run and was down 30-29 at the half after Ripon’s half-court trap resulted in a different second.
“We are not big enough to walk down against a team like this, plus Cody Haines got in early foul trouble and that hurt us,” said Wright.
Kole Gonzalez stepped in and was critical for Ripon after scoring eight points and tallying eight rebounds for the game. Gonzalez was also 4 of 4 from the free-throw line in the fourth.
Ripon forced 20 steals and all 8 of the team’s player from Tuesday scored at least a point for the game.
In the final quarter, Ripon extended their lead to five points in the closing three minutes before Hilmar went up 50-48.
Ripon’s Haines tied the game at 50 apiece with 31 seconds left and Hilmar was left with the final possession.
Paschini forced Cano to turn the ball over and completed a three-point play to secure the Indians seventh consecutive victory.
Hilmar’s top scorer was Alec Cano with 17 points and Nino Ta-a was second on the team with 13.
“We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” said Hilmar head coach Paul Willis. “Now we will see how we respond and see we can play how we can or we might play different but hopefully we respond with a positive effort just tough since that was right there but hopefully we can respond positively.”
Next for Ripon will be the team’s first home league contest against Escalon at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Hilmar will travel to Hughson to take on the Huskies at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Ripon Christian 77, Hughson 52
HUGHSON — Ripon Christian (1-0, 8-5) started league the same way it ended its preseason schedule: with a blowout victory over Hughson (0-1, 8-6).
The Knights built a 21-6 lead in the first quarter and didn’t look back as five different players finished in double figures. Zach Cortright led the way with 17 points, Travis Vander Molen had 16, Travis Zuidervaart 12, Jake Van Vuren 11 and Drew Vander Weide 10.