AT A GLANCE
• WHO: No. 2 Ripon Christian vs. No. 1 Victory Christian
• WHERE: Arco Arena, Sacramento
• WHEN: Tonight, 5:30 p.m.
Rigid non-conference and Trans Valley League schedules helped Ripon Christian’s boys basketball team prepare for the Sac-Joaquin Division V playoffs.
On Tuesday, the Knights (22-6) were reminded why they were tested early and often this season.
Ripon Christian overcame a double-digit lead to shock defending champion Bradshaw Christian 63-62 in the semifinals at Galt, setting up tonight’s title-round showdown with a familiar opponent, top-seeded Victory Christian (26-3) of Carmichael, at Arco Arena.
The Knights will go after the program’s 10th section championship. Victory claimed its only section title in 2001.
Coach Ron Vander Molen said his team’s “TVL toughness proved to be the difference” after Tuesday’s heart-stopping thriller.
The Knights were in several tightly-contested games and went 6-4 in a league that features three Division-IV playoff qualifiers, including powerhouse Modesto Christian.
Logan Vos contributed 15 points, six rebounds and four assists in the victory and was one of several heroes for RC Tuesday. He put the Knights up for good with two free throws with 9 seconds to go.
The nip-and-tuck affair, he said, was a necessary wake-up call.
“We needed this because we had two blowout wins going into the game,” he said. “Friday isn’t going to be any easier, so it was big for us to get a close win like that.”
Considering the quality of opponents the Knights have had they figure to be more battle tested than Victory, but that doesn’t by any means make them overwhelming favorites.
Victory ended RC’s season last year in the second round of the playoffs, winning 47-41 after falling behind 13-2 at the start. Ripon Christian exacted revenge and made a big statement, 64-43 at home, in a non-league contest Dec. 22.
The Vikings have since won 16 of their last 17 while clinching the outright title in the Central Valley Christian League, which qualified four teams in the D-V playoffs.
Victory has notable wins over Bradshaw and Valley Christian, which it beat for the second time this year, 73-64, in Tuesday’s other D-V semifinal.
Ripon Christian defeated six Division-IV playoff teams this year and impressively swept second-seeded semifinalist and Mother Lode League champ Calaveras in two non-conference games.
Victory is led by do-it-all 6-foot-3 senior forward Nathan Coppernoll. He averages 18.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 3.1 assists — all team highs — and is also the Vikings’ best 3-point and free-throw shooter.
Additional key contributors include senior guards Kevin Halverson and Brad Hoffelt (10.2 ppg), sophomore wing Clatyon Coppernoll (6.3 ppg) and 6-7 post Ethan Boolen (8.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg).
Boolen will likely get plenty of help on RC’s standout 6-8 center, Tyler Goslinga (20.4 ppg, 11 rpg).
Goslinga has faced double- and triple-team pressure all year, but none more effective than Bradshaw’s Tuesday — for a half, anyway. Bradshaw kept Goslinga scoreless over the first two quarters, but he finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
“Nobody executed it as well as (Bradshaw) did,” Goslinga said. “It was probably the hardest I’ve been trapped I’ve seen all year. I just had to kick it out and rely on (teammates) to hit their shots, and when they did it opened things up for me.”
Vos (13.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg) was one of the beneficiaries of Bradshaw’s focus on Goslinga. The other was guard Daniel Van de Pol (11.1 ppg), who torched the Pride for a game-high 23 points.
“I knew I had to step up more than I normally do,” Van de Pol said. “Coach told me to be the general out there and get everybody going.”
Ripon Christian hopes to get another stellar offensive effort from its big three, but role players Isaac Norman and Steve Vander Molen, who round out the starting five, must also be factors.
Norman had six steals Tuesday, while Vander Molen, who is usually assigned an opponent’s best player, scored six of his seven points in the fourth quarter.