RIPON — With an outright claim to the Trans-Valley League championship at stake, Ripon coach Rick Inderbitzin wanted his five seniors to play a part in it Friday in their final regular-season home game.
They took advantage of this rare opportunity to start, and the Indians rolled to a 56-38 victory over rival Ripon Christian. It’s the 10th overall league championship for Ripon (10-1, 20-4 overall), fourth in seven years and first for its second-year coach.
Savannah Clark, who finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and three steals, is the only senior who typically starts. Inderbitzin ran with the quintet for the entire opening period while Ripon Christian (5-6, 13-12) substituted frequently. The Indians led 13-7 by the end of the quarter.
“We were going to play them until we could not play them anymore,” Inderbitzin said. “If they did a good job we were going to keep them in there, and they did a fantastic job of playing defense, scoring some points and getting us the lead. It was a great thing for those seniors, they deserve it.”
Among the starting five was Katie Kaiser, usually a key post player off the bench. She made good use of her extended playing time, scoring 12 points while making three 3-pointers. In fact, she scored Ripon’s first points of the game with a 3, hitting the final two in the fourth.
“I don’t really shoot a lot of 3s because I’m normally in the post,” Kaiser said. “It was really important to get this win. We wanted to come out strong, and most of our seniors don’t start. We just wanted to get a good lead for our starters to finish it.”
And that they did.
Ripon’s usual starters consist of two sophomores and two juniors along with the feisty Clark. Sophomore Reina Sausedo was sterling in limited action, leading all scorers with 19 points including 11 in the second quarter.
“Reina is one of the best players in the area right now,” Ripon Christian coach Ed Mulder said. “She’s so smooth and so patient. She’s fun to watch except for when she’s playing against us.”
Ripon extended its lead with a 20-point second-quarter burst and later took its largest lead at 53-31 on Kaiser’s final 3 with 3:20 left in the game.
Kelly Engel paced the Knights with nine points, and Ariel Vander Weide contributed eight points and 10 rebounds. Morgan Van Elderen accounted for all seven of RC’s points in the first quarter but was held scoreless the rest of the way.
Ripon Christian was able to handle Ripon’s pressure defense well for the most part, turning the ball over just 13 times. The Knights just had trouble getting open shots to drop.
“That’s kind of been our problem all year,” Mulder said. “But they are so much quicker than we are and much more aggressive. They wanted it more tonight. We had a good practice (Thursday) but came in real passive.”
Ripon Christian still has a good shot at making the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs in Division VI despite the loss, and a win next Tuesday at Hughson should lock up a spot.
For Ripon, it was a strong finish to a busy week that began with a 72-61 loss to defending champion Mountain House, ending a 10-game winning streak. The Indians bounced back Thursday with a 72-54 win at Riverbank.
“Sometimes when you win 10 games in a row you get into that lull and our practices were kind of like that, too,” Inderbitzin said. “We stepped it up in practice a little bit more and the kids responded. I’m just super proud of them.”
Ripon 59, Ripon Christian 19
Lilly Mejia pumped in 11 of her 24 points in the first quarter for the TVL champion Indians. Mackenzie Hutchinson contributed 10 points, and Mikayla Vaught had eight.
Ripon went on a 26-7 run in the third quarter to start the running clock.