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Ripon Christian happy to be home for NorCal opener
GBK--Ripon Christian Preview file 1 LT
Ripon Christians Bailey Broker grabs the ball in front of Capital Christians Nicole Colbert in a 52-43 win for Capital Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship game at Sleep Train Arena. - photo by Dave Campbell

Ripon Christian’s girls basketball team has traveled to Petaluma, San Anselmo and East Palo Alto for CIF Northern California Regional Championships games in the last three years.

On Wednesday, the eighth-seeded Knights (16-8) will get to open the NorCal Division V tournament at home. They’ll get a rematch with San Anselmo-based San Domenico (22-6), the No. 9 seed. The winner takes on No. 1 Eastside College Prep (22-5), which placed third in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs.

“It’s big,” Ripon Christian coach Ed Mulder said the home-court advantage. “We played this team two years ago at their place. You go there and it’s an unfamiliar court with unfamiliar officials. Everything is a little bit different. Plus, it’s nice to be able to play in front of your own people.”

San Domenico lost to Valley Christian 56-29 in the North Coast Section semifinals. Valley Christian of Dublin won the NCS title and is the second seed for the NorCal tournament.

San Domenico previously downed Ripon Christian 44-39 in 2013, and five of its six players from that team are back. The Panthers again have little depth with just eight players, but what they do have is versatility. They’re led by senior point guard Rachele Nagler (13.9 points, 4.1 assists, 4.3 steals) and 6-foot-3 center Aminat Oladunjoye (11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks). Daria Jackson (5.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 steals), a 5-11 forward, and Elyzah Bernstein (11.7 points, 5.8 rebounds) are their other main contributors.

 “From what I remember from two years ago, they basically run a zone and pretty much dare you to trans and go inside, so our post players are going to have to execute,” Mulder said. “Offensively they like to try and pound it inside, and once you try to take the inside game away they have a girl (Nagler) who shoots 43 percent from the 3-point line. 

Ripon Christian has a quartet of 6-foot centers — Carly Tillema, Pamela Radach, Julia Ray and Michaela Aimone — that will look to neutralize Oladumjoye, and Mulder is hoping to have his backcourt rotation at full strength for Wednesday’s contest. Starting guard Nicole Graham (knee) did not play in last Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division V final won by Capital Christian, 52-44. Capital Christian used its speed to harass the Knights’ guards and start out with a 16-9 lead.

“We missed her at Sleep Train Arena,” Mulder said. “Not having one of our best guards hurt but she’s looking pretty good in practice. She might have some spot minutes on Wednesday.”