By JONAMAR JACINTO
RIPON — Ripon Christian’s undefeated streak in the Southern League came to an end Tuesday night, as Mariposa stunned the Knights 53-51 after Jadin Battles hit the winning shot with 1.5 seconds remaining.
Sean Broker had a good look from the baseline, but his attempt to tie it at the buzzer caromed off the side of the rim.
The Knights (1-1, 9-4 overall) had won 43 in a row since returning to the SL. The good news is that their run of three straight championships is still well within reach. That bad news: they have another stiff test this Friday against Turlock Christian, and their rematch with Mariposa down the road will be about 87 miles away.
“Had we won, I would have told them that nothing had been decided in terms of league,” Ripon Christian coach Ron Vander Molen said. “I ended up telling them the same thing with the loss, nothing has been decided. That’s all that was really said.”
Battles nailed the deciding jumper from the right wing. There were 32.3 seconds left when Mariposa (2-0, 11-3) began its final possession. The last shot was supposed to be taken by Sam Tucker or Bradley Chambers, the Bears’ two best shooters.
Tucker was double-teamed when he dumped it off to Battles, Mariposa’s fourth-leading scorer on the season who finished with four points on Tuesday.
“I was pretty confident,” Battles said. “That’s why I took it.”
His coach was glad he did.
“I have actually been asking Jadin to shoot that shot more often,” Mariposa coach Corey Edmiston said. “A lot of times he passes it up and wants to put it on the floor, but he can really shoot from there really well. (Ripon Christian) did a good job of taking away Sam and Brad, who were the two guys we were trying to get the ball to. Somebody else was going to have to pop up and take that shot and Jadin was the guy.”
Two 6-foot-2 sophomores spearheaded scoring for both teams, as Travis Vander Molen poured in 18 points, six rebounds and three steals for RC. Dalton Rockwood finished with 14 for Mariposa.
There were 10 lead changes in a game that featured several short bursts of momentum. The Bears landed the bigger blows, first an 11-2 run in the second quarter that put them up 28-26.
Early in the fourth they scored six unanswered points to charge ahead, 50-47. Ripon Christian tied it at 51 on a nifty drive from Broker (16 points), but the Knights never recaptured the lead.
The difference overall was Mariposa’s scrappy pressure defense on the perimeter, which forced 22 turnovers. Ripon Christian point guard Danny Vander Molen was limited to a single point, though he did dish out five assists.
“That was our plan,” Edmiston said. “They have a very strong starting five, but once they go to the bench it starts dipping a little bit. We were just trying to make sure we made them work on offense. And same thing when we were on offense, we wanted to make sure we made them work on defense.
“We always talk about chipping away and finding a crack eventually and I think it paid off for us tonight.”
Ripon Christian’s last conference loss came on Feb. 19, 2010 to powerhouse Modesto Christian in the much tougher Trans-Valley League. The Knights are heading back to the TVL next season for basketball only while Modesto Christian moves to the Modesto Metro Conference.
How the team responds to Tuesday’s defeat is paramount to coach Vander Molen. Turlock Christian (1-0, 9-5) and its enormous front line anchored by 6-7, 275-pound Brady Turner visit Friday for RC’s winter homecoming.
“Turlock Christian is a different team,” Vander Molen said. “We’ll have different challenges against Turlock Christian because they have more of a size advantage.”
Ripon Christian 46,
Lukas Vermeulen and Jake Van Vuren fired 14 and 12 points, respectively, as the Knights escaped with the victory. Ethan McMurray added eight points.
Ripon Christian 36,
On Monday, the Lady Knights outscored Mariposa 25-0 in the second half for a resounding road win.
Hailey Van Laar and Jessica Orozco (5 steals) each had eight points to pace Ripon Christian.