MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Ripon High emerged as the top team in the Trans-Valley League with its 46-34 statement win over upstart Mountain House on Tuesday, and it may have coincided with the rise of an unlikely MVP candidate.
Karla Calderon, a first-year varsity senior, was largely responsible for the Indians’ hot start in the battle for first place, as she registered 16 of her 21 points in the first half and drained five 3-pointers overall. Ripon (4-0 TVL, 11-7 overall) held leads of 14-5 and 31-17 after the first two periods, and the cushion held up despite sloppy play in the second half. Mountain House (3-1, 12-4), in its first year at the varsity level, had a seven-game winning streak snapped.
“When we lost two important players on our team (to grades), our coach mentioned that we needed somebody to step up and take control,” Calderon said. “As a senior I felt like I should do that. At the beginning of league I started to take more shots and got my confidence going.”
Coming off a 20-point effort against Hughson, Calderon’s confidence hasn’t been any higher. She has blossomed into the go-to scorer that Ripon sorely lacked at the start of the season, but Contente said her contributions aren’t limited to offense.
“She has stepped up big time, not just with scoring but also defensively,” Contente said. “We created havoc, got some turnovers right off the bat and hit some shots.”
Ripon was able to beat Mountain House at its own game, forcing a higher tempo with a full-court press and making perimeter shots to open up lanes in the post. The Indians forced nine turnovers — with Haylee Monroe collecting four steals — in the opening period, while the Mustangs had a field goal drought spanning close to eight minutes in the half.
Also key for Ripon was rebounding — it held a commanding 47-26 edge on the glass and pulled down 18 on the offensive end. Kaylyn Evans had just four points but led all players with 15 rebounds. Monroe added nine points, six rebounds and six steals.
“We wanted to make sure we boxed out and got the rebounds, because we knew were going to shoot a lot of outside shots and the ball was going to go long,” Contente said. “Everybody contributed when it came to rebounding.”
It didn’t always go so smoothly for Ripon, which struggled with clock management throughout the second half. Jill Jamero sank two mid-range jumpers to give the Indians their largest lead at 35-17 early in the first quarter, but they gave Mountain House chances to make a run by taking quick shots early in possessions.
Fortunately for Ripon, the Mustangs’ cold shooting continued in the second half. Jenessa Pena’s nine points led Mountain House. Tatyana Jackson had eight points, four steals and three blocks and sank a 3-pointer at the final buzzer.
“We have to put a little more focus on running through our plays and those things will come,” Contente said. “It was a good learning experience for us. It’s going to be a grind. We told the girls nothing is over yet. We’re still not where we want to be.”
Ripon hosts reigning league champion Riverbank on Thursday in what will be just its second game at the North Gym in the past month. On Saturday is the annual Hoops for a Cure play-in-pink nonleague game with East Union before a big rivalry showdown at Ripon Christian on Jan. 26.
Mountain House 35
Katie Kaiser fired 16 of her 20 points in the first half, and Kayla Jacklich pumped in 15 as Ripon rolled to a one-sided victory.