Danny Vander Molen delivered a clutch 19-point performance Saturday, including the game’s final five points that helped lift Ripon Christian over its cross-town rivals, 71-66.
The Knights’ floor general played with a confidence that had him pulling up for 3s whenever Ripon welcomed him to do so. He also ran the offense with the maturity to know when to dish it or drive it in order to get to the free-throw line where he was 5 of 9.
Vander Molen went 3 of 4 from the line in the final 10 seconds of regulation and sunk a bucket sweeping across the lane that made it 68-64 with 20 seconds to go that ended a 15-3 run for Ripon.
“Danny did a good of leading us and taking charge of the offense,” said Ron Vander Molen, Ripon Christian’s head coach and the point guard’s father. “He’s becoming more and more of a team leader and his leadership skills are really starting to come through as a junior.”
During the process, Ripon Christian picked up its 20th win of the season against a Ripon (5-6 Trans Valley League, 7-19 overall) program it will see twice a year next season as the Knights (11-2 Southern League, 20-5) are set to join the TVL.
This upcoming league preview for the years to come was entertaining to say the least.
Ripon trailed 48-28 three minutes into the second half, but it didn’t’ throw in the towel.
“When we got up by 20 I was surprised,” coach Vander Molen said. “(Ripon) really came back and never gave up. My guys hung in there. I was worried we were going to run out of gas at the end with having a game (Friday), but they hung tough.”
Ripon will also be headed for the postseason, and it played like it – aside from the second quarter. After a dismal eight-point frame, the Knights took a 36-24 lead into the locker room. Aside from that, Ripon played solid, especially in the second half where they outscored RC 42-35.
“We called that timeout (with 4:48 left in the third quarter), and the ship was turning at that point,” Ripon head coach Rod Wright said. “And we roared all the way back. They ratcheted up, and it was just sad that we couldn’t have a second quarter that matched it. (Ripon Christian) got a lot of points from the free-throw line early in the game.”
The first quarter was back and forth. Ripon freshman Cole Stevens gave his squad a 16-13 lead with a trey at the sound of the buzzer. Stevens finished with 17 points on four 3-balls.
In the second quarter, Ripon Christian opened with a 13-3 run and scored the first 11 to take a 23-16 advantage. Sophomore Travis Vander Molen (14 points) scored the first seven of the second quarter as his jump-shot stroke looked sound.
He knocked down two of Ripon Christian’s six total 3-pointers to start the second quarter along with two more field goals during the frame.
After a few more buckets were exchanged, the Knights went on another run that was sparked by Austin Alger’s triple.
“Travis is the ultimate competitor,” coach Vander Molen said of his nephew. “Him and Austin both had to work really hard defensively, and (Alger) made some really good decision offensively.”
Ripon Christian scored 10 unanswered to push its lead to 36-21 in the first half.
During that span, the Knights went to the foul line three times and were 5 of 6. The Knights were 11 of 15 from the free-throw line in the first half alone and 17 of 28 overall. Ripon shot 6 of 11 from the charity stripe.
Alger finished with 12 and senior Eric Broker added 13 for the Knights, who will close out their league schedule on Tuesday at home against Gustine.
Ripon, which will close out TVL play on Tuesday against Orestimba, received respectable outings from senior point guard Chase DePrue (13 points) and senior center Derek Hickman (15 points) as well.
Ripon 73, Ripon Chr. 54
Matthew Moore (20) and Aaron Paschini (19) combined for 39 points to help Ripon improve to 15-11. Paschini tallied up 12 steals as well.
Ripon 55, Ripon Chr. 46
Brenden Fugit scored 15 points for the Indians, while Rhet Herrin added 12 and Zach Hansen 11.