SALIDA — Ripon High is hitting its stride.
And Matt Ratto is hitting his shots.
After putting forth valiant efforts in expected double-digit losses to Sacramento High and Clovis East to start the ultra-competitive Modesto Christian Holiday Hoops Classic, the Indians easily dispatched Beyer of Modesto 86-63 in consolation play Monday.
Sacramento won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III and Northern California Regional Championships titles last year, while Clovis East claimed the Central Section Division I crown.
Ratto, who struggled with his shooting stroke to start the season, continued his recent tear with 24 points and seven assists Monday.
“Beyer is a good team, we just came out and played real good,” Ratto said. “We meshed well. That was probably the best ball we’ve played all year.”
Ripon head coach Rod Wright is pleased what he has seen on the offensive end all tournament.
The return of Efren Sifuentes (hamstring) to the starting lineup is a big reason for the sudden improvement. Sifuentes finished with 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
Forward Dane Wells also scored 17 points while pulling down eight rebounds. Ryan Baker and Kody Wengel added nine points apiece.
“Offensively it’s very good to have him back,” Wright said of Sifuentes. “It gives Ratto more of an opportunity to get open, and it allows Baker to be more creative passing-wise. (Sifuentes) is a very strong offensive player.”
Beyer (3-10) simply couldn’t keep up.
The Indians (5-7) effectively ran the fastbreak, moved the ball well in half-court sets, nailed seemingly every open jumper, drained eight 3-pointers and were 14-of-16 from the free-throw line.
Wells’ 3-point play with 4:36 left in the first pushed Ripon’s early lead to 11-4. In the second, the Indians buried three 3-pointers (Ratto accounted for two of them) on successive possessions and were ahead comfortably, 46-30, by halftime.
“Offensively we’ve played like this before, but against teams that are much better than we are,” Wright said. “It comes down to the quality of teams we’re facing, and this is more our speed.”
Bryan Garbez, a 6-foot-6 forward, led Beyer with 24 points.
It was a much-needed victory over a Division I opponent for Division IV Ripon, which had dropped four of its last five, in terms of Sac-Joaquin Section playoff power ratings.
Ripon expects another challenge in the final day of the tournament, with Pacific-bound point guard Allen Huddleston, who averages over 30 points per game, and Merced up next in the 13th-place game.
The two teams will square off at 11 a.m. today.