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RIPON RALLIES FOR WIN
Indians close with 8-0 run to top Riverbank
RHS-HOOPS3-1-20-12
Ripons Haylee Fannin leads a fast break past a pair of Riverbank defenders Thursday during the Indians TVL win. - photo by HIME ROMERO

RIPON — The Ripon High girls basketball team has a leg up in the race for the Trans-Valley League’s unofficial public schools title.

Sparked by sophomore post players Kelsey Alexander and Morgan Carrico, along with some clutch plays from guard Ruth Waters, the Indians raced past Riverbank, 49-42 on Thursday. They ended the contest on an 8-0 run over the final 2 minutes and 25 seconds.

With the first half of league drawing to a near, Ripon (4-1, 13-5 overall) and Riverbank (3-2, 11-6) have established themselves as the two best squads behind five-time defending champion Modesto Christian.

Ripon is coming off Tuesday’s 61-32 loss to Modesto Christian,

“We knew coming in this was going to be a big week,” said Ripon coach George Contente. “(Riverbank is) a much improved team — they’re a good team. Their girls play very well together.”

Alexander and Carrico came up big with Ripon’s top two scoring options struggling to get untracked. Waters was stifled all game by foul trouble, while forward Tia Sidtikun (eight points) was thwarted by the taller front line of Riverbank.

Alexander poured in 15 points and hauled down over 10 rebounds, while Carrico, usually relied upon more for her defense, pitched in 13 points. Carrico contributed seven points during a 19-4 third-quarter run.

“Other people had to step up and make good decisions on the floor,” Contente said. “We had to change a couple of things around. We’ve been talking about that in our team meetings lately — people stepping up and doing different things that they are not used to.”

Waters did leave her mark in the game despite playing limited minutes, finishing with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists.

She played opposite Olivia Luu, Riverbank’s outstanding freshman point guard who finished with 23 points, four assists and six steals. The two — along with Luu’s elder sister, 5-foot-11 sophomore Janelle Luu (11 points, 10 rebounds) — used to play for the Ceres Shock Amateur Athletic Union squad.

“Having played on the same team together, we know each other’s moves,” Waters said. “It just makes it that much more challenging.”

Waters started the second half on the bench with three fouls, but she helped turned the tide in the third quarter when she returned to the floor. Riverbank staked its largest lead at 27-20 on Victoria Sandoval’s baseline jumper with 5:08 remaining.

Waters put Ripon ahead 32-31 with a steal and fastbreak layup, and she capped the big third-quarter flurry with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer deep from the right wing.

“Coach always tells us in practice we have to believe that we can make it,” Waters said. “I saw my defender was just waiting for the quarter to be over, and I just thought, ‘I’m going to take this and I am going to make it.’”

Riverbank, trailing 39-31 to start the fourth, didn’t go away easily. The Bruins took advantage after Waters was sidelined with her fourth foul just 16 seconds in. A little over four minutes later, Riverbank took its final lead, 42-41, with a put-back from 6-foot center Tiffany Edgar (four points, 11 rebounds).

The Indians, to their credit, didn’t flinch.

Carrico banked in a jumper from the top of the key to shift the momentum back Ripon’s way. Waters followed that up with a put-back layup, and Alexander’s all-net jumper from the left wing with 47 seconds left iced it.

“I think what helped us in this game is that we’ve already had these types of games during the year,” Contente said. “Our girls are still learning, but they have good experience playing in these close games against good competition.”