RIPON — In a Trans-Valley League tilt between two guard-oriented teams, it was the two “bigs” who made all the difference for Ripon on Tuesday.
Six-foot-3 forward Cody Haines scored a season-high 15 points while grabbing 12 rebounds, and thick-bodied center David Onochie added 11 points to propel the Indians to a 53-51 win over Riverbank. The win clinches Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths for both Ripon (6-2 TVL, 15-10 overall) and Ripon Christian. It also sets up their intra-city showdown that doubles as a TVL championship game.
But to make that one any more meaningful the Indians had to beat the team that beat the team. Riverbank (4-4, 8-14) was coming off a 70-60 upset of Ripon Christian, which was previously unbeaten in league. The key to toppling the Bruins and their deep stable of guards was for Ripon to take advantage of its size — an opportunity rarely afforded to the also vertically-challenged Indians.
“Coach (Rod) Wright told us this was the game for us to step up,” Haines said. “So we worked hard on it in practice.”
Ripon’s intentions were clear at the outset, as Haines and Onochie combined to score 10 of the team’s first 11 points. In end, it was Haines who fittingly secured the loose ball and the win for the Indians.
Yili Lopez had a chance to tie it at the free-throw line with 6.9 seconds left but missed the first attempt. After a Ripon timeout, Lopez intentionally missed the second free throw short of the rim.
“I was surprised he did that,” Wright said. “It was a mad scramble after that. The thing you worry about is the referee making another call.”
Juan Hernandez came up with the long offensive rebound and chucked up a 3 from the right wing. He missed the rim altogether, and Haines beat out Wolfgang Lopez for the rebound under the hoop.
“Our post play was the best we’ve had this season,” Wright said. “If we had to rely on our three guards this game we’d get blown out.”
Wright noted that post players accounted for 33 of his team’s points, with Andrew Wood contributing seven — all in the second half — off the bench. Usually it’s the guard triumvirate of Mario Roach, Aaron Paschini and Cole Stevens carrying the load, but that was not the case Tuesday. Roach started strong but ultimately fouled out with 10 points, five assists and three steals. Paschini had just three points and was in foul trouble throughout. Stevens ended up with seven points and six rebounds.
“Teams will focus on Aaron, Mario and Cole,” Haines said. “We get the garbage points, basically.”
Riverbank overcame an early shooting funk and 11-4 deficit and took its first lead, 17-16, with 2:43 left in the second quarter on Wolfgang Lopez’s layup. Later in the third, Bobby Campbell canned a 3-pointer to give Riverbank its largest lead at 39-36 with 1:21 to go. Ripon answered with an 11-1 run while the Bruins went 6 minutes, 28 seconds without a field goal.
Wolfgang Lopez (eight rebounds), Yili Lopez (seven assists) and Juan Hernandez (four 3s) each scored 12 points to lead Riverbank.
“It was a typical Riverbank-Ripon game,” Wright said. “This is the TVL of old. This is the way it used to be, all barnburner games, from one game to the next.”
The Indians are expecting another Friday at Ripon Christian, which will look to garner an outright claim to the TVL crown. The Knights are in their first year back in the TVL after spending the previous four in the Southern League.
Ripon Christian 58, Escalon 47
In Escalon, Ripon Christian (7-1, 17-5) rebounded well from its first loss in league behind Sean Broker’s 18 points and eight rebounds.
Danny Vander Molen added 12 points, and Daniel Hannink chipped in nine. Tristan Vos gave Ripon Christian key minutes off the bench and contributed four points, three rebounds and three assists. Ripon Christian led 18-8 after the first quarter but allowed Escalon to hang around as it battled through foul trouble.
Ripon 38, Riverbank 36
Ripon was in control early with a 13-5 lead but held on late for the victory.
Rhet Herrin led the way with 12 points, while Lucas Johnston had eight.