Ripon committed 24 turnovers and could not get shots to fall Thursday in a 48-34 loss to visiting Riverbank.
The Indians (4-4, 13-9 overall) needed a win to keep pace in what has been a topsy-turvy race to the Trans-Valley League title. Three of their final four games of the regular season are against teams they lost to in the first half of league. They take on Escalon and Hughson — the top two teams — both on the road next week.
Ripon squeaked out a high-scoring win at Riverbank (4-3, 15-5) the last time the two squared off, but the rematch played out much differently.
“I think we played better defense, and we both didn’t shoot the ball fantastically,” Ripon coach Rick Inderbitzin said. “They hit some 3s that kept them ahead of us, but I think defensively it was just a different pace.”
His Indians are without Gabby Delgado, who has recently been diagnosed with a torn meniscus. The 5-foot-10 center scored 23 points in the first go-around with the Bruins.
Kaylee Hutchinson led Ripon with 11 points, seven rebounds and four steals on Thursday. Sierra Hollis contributed seven points and nine boards.
Riverbank countered Ripon’s strength in the post with terrific guard play. Livi Fernandez topped all scorers with 18 points, scoring 12 of them in the fourth quarter. She had a slow start and picked up her third foul with 4:39 left in the first half. The junior also had six rebounds and three steals.
The Bruins did well to not drop off in the second quarter without their top player, who averages 20.1 points per game. Freshman Taylor Macias and sophomore Chancis Gamez picked up the slack, helping Riverbank build a 22-15 lead.
Macias finished with 13 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. Gamez had 12 points and six boards. The backcourt trio accounted for five of the Bruins’ six 3-pointers.
“I have confidence in all 12 (players), but Chancis Gamez and Taylor Macias for young guards really stepped up,” Riverbank coach Janelle Luu said. “We’re at that part in the season where we have to start playing big-girl basketball and they really did.”
She also lauded the efforts of her post players, who were clearly outsized in the paint. Riverbank was outrebounded 39-28, but the discrepancy was much closer this time around.
“Ripon has been a mighty force on the boards,” Luu said. “They outrebounded us by 25 last time and we made that a point of emphasis. We knew that if we could hit the boards better we’d have a good chance of winning.”
Riverbank was also able to limit Ripon’s attack with a zone defense. Ripon could not take advantage of open looks from the perimeter and had a tough time making layups. Some of that had to do with the Bruins’ scrappy defense, which included four blocks from Cheyenne Torrez. She was one of two Riverbank post players to foul out.
In addition, Ripon was 14-for-33 from the free-throw line.
“In the (previous) game we shot 52 free throws and made 30 and tonight we missed 19 free throws — that’s a big difference,” Inderbitzin said. “We missed some shots early on and it carried over for a while. We kept playing hard, we just didn’t convert when we needed to. We allowed them to get a couple drives to the bucket and score and of course they hit a couple of 3s that propelled them a little bit farther ahead of us later in the game.”
Ripon was still in the game early in the fourth quarter. Hollis’s traditional 3-point play closed the Indians in 31-25 with 6:51 to go. Riverbank responded with 11 unanswered points highlighted by a banked-in 3-pointer from Macias, a wing 3 from Fernandez and a 3-point play from Fernandez.
“Going into the fourth quarter I thought we had a chance,” Inderbitzin said. “I just told the girls to keep playing hard and let’s go get it, and then they went on a little run. They’re a good team. They have three really good players on the team who can shoot the ball and drive. We just didn’t hit the shots we needed.”