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Ripon girls take command early in postponed opener
Tia Sidtikun has an open lane to score an easy two points for Ripon, which defeated visiting Bret Harte 54-30 in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoffs Wednesday. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

RIPON — Snow blocked the path from Angels Camp to the Central Valley for Bret Harte’s girls basketball team Tuesday, postponing its Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoff opener with No. 5 Ripon.

On Wednesday, a blizzard in the form of Ripon’s stifling defense kept the Bullfrogs from getting untracked early on in their 54-30 loss.

With shots challenged and hands in passing lanes, No. 12 Bret Harte (16-11) shot 0 for 9 from the field and committed 11 turnovers as Ripon (23-4) staged a furious 17-1 first-quarter run.

Ripon slowed its roll early in the second while Bret Harte took advantage with a 10-1 spurt bookended by 3-pointers from Cassidy Davis and Bekka Gross. The Indians answered with seven unanswered points as the Bullfrogs slumped again, not scoring for a 5-minute, 30-second span in the quarter.

“I just wish we held onto that a little bit longer,” Ripon point guard Ruth Waters said of the team’s energetic start. “Usually we have slow starts, but I thought this time we did really well. We just can’t get complacent and carry that all the way through, especially tomorrow.”

Tonight, Ripon travels to Jackson to take on fourth-seeded Argonaut. More on that later.

Waters paced the Indians with 16 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals. Tia Sidtikun also scored 16 to go with seven boards and four steals. Kelsey Alexander added 11 points and nine rebounds.

Kelsey Switzer finished with nine points to lead Bret Harte.

Ripon broke away for good in the with a 10-0 onslaught that stretched its lead to 41-19 with 2:42 left in the third.

Now, Ripon can prepare for an undefeated Argonaut (28-0) squad that eliminated Riverbank 60-43 on Tuesday. Preparation time, however, is limited because of its first-round postponement, which also opened up the opportunity for Argonaut scout Wednesday’s contest in Ripon.

“We can’t predict the weather, but it does kind of give (Argonaut) an advantage because they get a day to prepare and we don’t. We get the short end of the stick on that. Then again I think we had the short end of the stick this whole time,” said Ripon coach George Contente, whose team feels slighted for its seeding. “With that being said, the kids responded tonight. It was just another step.”

Ripon was the No. 4 team in the section’s Division-IV playoff power ratings, but Bradshaw Christian was awarded the third seed to drop the Indians down a spot. Waters said it’s another source of motivation as Ripon looks to hand Argonaut its first and only loss of the season. A win tonight guarantees the winner — and all other semifinalists — a berth to the NorCal tournament.

“We always feel like Ripon doesn’t’ get a lot of credit and that we always have something to prove,” Waters said. “We’re just hungry to win like we always are.”

Bret Harte coach Ronnie Davis looks forward to it. Having faced Argonaut three times — and lost by an average margin of 21 points— in Mother Lode League play, he has a good idea of what Ripon is up against.

“I think it’s going to be a really good game — enough for me to drive over there and watch it,” Davis said. “I thought Argonaut got kind of a raw deal with the 4 seed because I’ve seen them three times, but I’m really impressed by Ripon.

“We had early film on them and they’re definitely better than what we saw. They’re a really good team, and I honestly think it could go either way. They’re both strong in the post, they both can shoot and they both can penetrate.”