RIPON – The Ripon Christian girls basketball team hasn’t had much success this decade against its across-the-street neighbor.
For the first time in five years, the Knights will get two opportunities to reverse the trend.
Ripon Christian will host Ripon tonight in the first of two league meetings this season. The two schools have played each other once per season since 2009, when Ripon Christian moved out of the TVL and into the Southern League.
Now that they’ve been reunited the rivalry takes on a whole new scope. Both teams are 2-1 and tied for second with Hughson in the TVL standings. Riverbank is the lone unbeaten at 3-0.
Only three teams from the TVL will qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
History favors the Indians in this matchup of schools separated by a fraction of a mile. The Indians have won three of the last four meetings, including the last two by a combined 17 points.
“We always worry about their size,” Ripon coach George Contente said. “It’s a rivalry game, so you worry no matter what type of season both teams are having. It always comes down to a few possessions or something out of the ordinary.”
Regardless of the outcome, Ripon Christian coach Ed Mulder is happy to be back in the land of the TVL, where the competition is fierce night in and night out.
Blowouts had become commonplace in the Southern League, leaving little drama and excitement. Ripon Christian won three consecutive league championships and went 52-4 in four seasons in the SL.
Before last week’s six-point loss at Riverbank, the Knights had gone more than two calendar years without a league loss.
“These rivalry games always make you nervous, but we’ve enjoyed being back in the TVL,” Mulder said. “We play Ripon every year and they’ve beaten us in three of the last four. It’s a tough game for us, but my girls are playing pretty well right now.
“They’re on a roll, too. It should be an outstanding game; a matter of who plays good defense and shoots the ball well.”
It promises to be a battle of wills.
Ripon Christian will look to slow the game down, exercising a very methodical offense that features forward Carly Tillema, one of the area’s top rebounders.
“We have to play smart if we want to contend in this game,” Mulder said. “We’re very much a team-oriented bunch. We don’t have great scorers or great ball-handlers. We have to do things as a team, which takes more mental preparation than just letting your physical skills take over. We can’t turn the ball over or allow second-chance points.”
The Indians will do all they can to unravel the Knights with their press defense and guard-heavy attack.
Zaire Davis (13.4 points, 10.9 rebounds) is averaging a double-double for the Indians, while swiping nearly three steals per game.
Ripon also gets key contributions from senior Jourdy Richter and junior Jill Jamero, who average 7 and 5.5 points, respectively.
Ripon is looking to snap a two-game slide. The Indians have lost to Riverbank and East Union.
“We’re taking it one game at a time. This is just another league game for us. That’s how we’re approaching it,” Contente said. “We had a tough game on Saturday night, but I saw it at the end of the game. I felt it from the kids. I saw it in their faces. You can tell they want to get back on the winning track.”
A win on the road could go a long way in the TVL.
“We got one in Hughson and it was a tough one,” Contente said. “It’s always good to get a win at someone else’s place.”