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Ripon Christian dominates Futures to earn 13th SJS banner
Futures-Ripon Christian boys basketball
Ripon Christian players begin to celebrate their Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship Friday at UC Davis’ University Credit Union Center. - photo by SEAN KAHLER

DAVIS — The faces may change at Ripon Christian, but expectations do not.

With just three returning players bolstered by a strong core of sophomores, the No. 1-seeded Knights claimed their 13th Sac-Joaquin Section championship on Friday with a commanding 67-47 win over first-time finalist Futures.

“RC is always going to be around,” Luke Crivello said.

The senior guard was one of several standouts for Ripon Christian in the Division V title game, though no one stood out like 6-foot-9 center Jace Beidleman with his 18 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and six blocks. His

Futures-Ripon Christian boys basketball
Ripon Christian coach Mark Hofman shows off his program’s latest Sac-Joaquin Section championship banner Friday after the Knights defeated Futures 67-47 at UC Davis.
mere presence was enough to alter what No. 6 Futures (26-6) had planned on both sides of the floor.

“I mean, I can’t take all the credit …,” Beidleman said before interrupted.

“It’s run of the mill,” RC coach Mark Hofman said. “In fact, I think it was an average game for him. He doesn’t want to say it, he’s a good guy. That’s an average game for him.”

The Knights (24-6) had four scorers in double figures, while Futures had just one in Daniel Kozlov, who was shut out in the first quarter but finished with a game-high 23 points.

Crafty point guard Keylen Garth had six points, seven assists and three steals after scoring 30 points in a 67-59 upset of No. 2 seed Fortune Early College in the semifinals. EJ George added nine points and nine rebounds.

Futures shot just 32.8% from the field, and Hofman said Beidleman had much to do with it.

Futures-Ripon Christian boys basketball
Futures’ EJ George has his shot blocked by 6-foot-9 Ripon Christian center Jace Beidleman (23).
“Other teams cannot do what they’re used to,” Hofman said. “A lot of high school teams, when you take away their primary offensive options, have trouble and he does that. He changes the game.

“Also, our guards can overextend on shooters, because who is behind them? Jace is just waiting. He takes up so much space. Dominant player. Better than he looks, and if you have any knowledge of basketball, you realize it. That’s how good he is.”

Crivello had his own ways of impacting the game.

He was struck in the mouth during the opening minute and spit out a piece of his tooth that got chipped before taking two free throws that he uncharacteristically missed.

The sharpshooter could only hit the bullseye after that, making all six of his attempts from the field including three 3-pointers. He buried a buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the second quarter after a steal from Jake Vander Veen and had 13 of his 15 points by halftime. Ripon Christian led 38-20 at the intermission.

With Crivello drawing tighter defense in the second half, he found other ways to remain productive, finishing with four assists and three rebounds.

“If somebody’s got a better shot than me, I’m willing to give it up,” Crivello said.

The unselfish play was on full display from Ripon Christian, which totaled 20 assists on its 28 made baskets. Ripon Christian’s two seniors linked up for the big highlight of the fourth quarter, as Crivello drew the defense with dribble penetration and dished it to Beidleman who punctuated the play with a right-handed slam.

Vander Veen paced the trio of sophomore starters with 15 points to go with three rebounds and three assists. Mason Tameling added 12 points, knocking down four 3s. Amos Cady made a 3 in the first quarter for his only points, but he collected seven rebounds, four assists and a block.

The Knights had an answer for everything Futures threw at them, whether it was a zone defense or a press. Ripon Christian’s lead swelled to 22, 48-26, late in the third quarter after Tameling found Vander Veen for a baseline jumper.

It was all in all a near-perfect effort from Ripon Christian, who shot 51.9% from the field, made 10 of 18 3s and won the battle of the boards, 40-31.

Coach Hofman can shrug off the 1-of-6 free throws and 15 turnovers, for now. Considering the early-season struggles and growing pains, he is proud of how quickly his team has improved in the short time since.

“We had to really go back and reteach a lot of things, because we have a lot of sophomores and juniors,” he said. “Midseason, we had a theme of the day sometimes. Rebounding wasn’t very good at times, and we went and got in the lab and worked on it. Our transition wasn’t great, so we had to fix that. Defense (was) a big one. Sometimes our ball handling when we were turning the ball over.

“So, we would take one thing at a time and start knocking them off, and then you put all those little pieces together. What you saw tonight is what it looks like at the end.”

It’s not over yet for both Ripon Christian and Futures, who will begin the California Interscholastic Federation Northern Regionals next Tuesday. Brackets will be released on Sunday.