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Ripon Christian repels Cunha, Riverbank
BBSK--Riverbank-Ripon Christian pic 2 WEB
Ripon Christians Fletcher Jackson rises to the basket for a layup while drawing the foul on Riverbank defender Robert Cunha. - photo by GARY JENSEN/

RIPON — Riverbank kept coming, but Ripon Christian always had an answer in the pivotal Trans-Valley League showdown Friday between two post-season contending teams.
It wasn’t until Jadon Vander Molen converted two free throws with 47.4 seconds left  that the victory was safely in hand for the host Knights, who avenged a previous loss, 71-63. Ripon Christian (6-3, 14-8) led by as much as 15 in the first half, but the always-dangerous Bruins — spearheaded by Robert Cunha’s 29 points and five 3-pointers — cut it to three twice in the fourth quarter.
Vander Molen was scoreless through three quarters but came up with a big 3 midway through the final period, and Andrew Vander Weide followed with a three-point play to extend Ripon Christian’s lead to 62-53. Nine of 10 Ripon Christian players ended up scoring.
“We had some guys who had only had a bucket or two but that adds up,” Ripon Christian coach Mark Hofman said. “That’s called a team win right there. They played well as a team and that’s nice to see.”
The Knights needed all hands on deck to hold off Cunha and the Bruins (6-3, 10-14). They did it with strong inside-outside play, with the 6-foot-7 Vander Weide leading the charge with 17 points and nine rebounds. Jacob Vander Hoek, a 6-8 reserve center, was instrumental in helping RC build the early lead and finished with 13 points and five boards.
Cade Alger added 13 points and six rebounds, point guard Fletcher Jackson had nine points, three assists and three steals and freshman forward Braden Van Groningen tallied eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks to go with six points.
“We’ve lost some games where we just didn’t hit shots,” Vander Weide said. “When I get the ball and they’re double- and triple-teaming me I’m looking to kick it out, and tonight we were able to hit a lot of open shots.”
It didn’t take long for Vander Weide to get rolling, as he scored five points in the game’s first three-plus minutes. Riverbank held him without a point for the rest of the half but he again got untracked to start the third period, scoring his team’s first five points that included a powerful one-handed tomahawk jam set up by a nice drive-and-dish from Jackson.
“That was one of my better dunks,” Vander Weide said. “I was pretty happy about that.”
Riverbank didn’t go away quietly after trailing 31-16 late in the second quarter and 36-25 at halftime. Cunha poured in 10 of his points in Riverbank’s 21-point third quarter. Beto Jimenez, who drained four 3s in all, scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half.  The Bruins made nine 3s overall.
“We started in man (defense) and they’re really good at penetrating, so we went to the zone but it’s harder to keep track of their shooters,” Hofman said. “We threw all these different defenses at them because they are so good. Jeff (Jennings, Riverbank’s coach) does a great job with those guys.”
Ripon Christian and Riverbank now trail second-place Hughson by a half game, while Ripon remains unbeaten in league play. The Knights head to Hilmar next Tuesday but close out the regular season with big games against Ripon and Hughson.
“This was a big game,” Hofman said. “We’re playing for playoff position and we want a home game. This is playoffs now for us. We’ve talked about having to win every game.”
Ripon Christian 48,
 Riverbank 33
The Knights started hot, leading 20-9 after the first quarter and holding Riverbank to just two points in the third.
Wyatt Nichelsen hit three 3s and notched 11 of his game-high 16 points in the opening period. Jacob Van Groningen contributed 13 points.