RIPON — Spunk. Laytonville had it and Ripon Christian did not.
The sixth-seeded Warriors made the four-hour trek from the North Coast with their squad decimated by the flu and only six of nine players making the trip.
The normally sure-shooting Knights could not pull away and then saw Laytonville start the final period on a 10-2 run on the way to a stunning 48-41 win in opening-round action of the CIF Northern California Division VI Championships.
Two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior comprised five of the six Warriors (25-4).
“We’re young, we’re spunky, we’re ready to play basketball,” Laytonville coach Corey James said. “There’s no emotion — we just want to play basketball. They’re freshmen and sophomores and they want to come and play and have fun. I think that was the difference because they really don’t understand what this is about yet. It won’t sink in until later on.”
After a respectable 18-point first quarter, the production for No. 3 Ripon Christian (17-13) dropped off significantly. The Knights tallied eight and 10 points in the second and third periods, respectively, and they were outscored 14-5 in the final quarter.
“We didn’t do a good job of reverse pivoting and kicking the ball out to the shooters,” Ripon Christian coach Ed Mulder said. “Sometimes you get into games and the emotions of the game and the pressure of the game take over. They hit their shots. We didn’t hit ours and they did. It’s tough, but like I told the girls there are only 12 teams that will go out winners at the end of the year — the 12 state champions.
“They gave everything they could. We weren’t ready to quit. It was a great year and they are great, great kids. I would take them any day of the week. But you have to take your hats off to Laytonville. They hit some key shots down the stretch and they didn’t turn the ball over a lot and we did.”
Kelly Engel is the lone senior on a squad of primarily underclassmen for the Knights.
“We are only losing one,” Mulder said. “She was very, very important. She is like the glue. Kelly just kind of held all these young kids together for the last few years.”
Playing on a broken foot, Renae Heida led the Ripon Christian attack with a double-double, scoring 11 points and getting 10 rebounds. She had four of her team-high six steals in the first period.
Engel added eight points and Morgan Van Elderen had seven.
Freshman Akeela James was a one-girl wrecking crew for the Warriors, leading all scorers with 16 points while pulling down 12 rebounds. Metiea Taylor added 13 points and Mercrea James had 12 points.
Laytonville has another long road trip on the horizon on Saturday when the Warriors travel to Palo Cedro and take on No. 2 Redding Christian.
“We’re not done,” James said. “We had a successful season, we’re a young squad and we’ll be here next year again.”