On the heels of an upset victory, the area’s last basketball team standing will attempt to pull off an even bigger one tonight in Vallejo.
No. 11 Ripon (25-6) heads to No. 3 St. Patrick-St. Vincent (24-7) for a CIF State Division IV Northern California Regional Championships quarterfinal. The winner gets second-seeded Lick-Wilmerding (25-8) or No. 7 West Campus (22-10) next Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Indians warded off previously-undefeated Corning, 58-50. The Cardinals were seeded sixth with a 29-0 record and won a Northern Section championship.
“That’s a very good and disciplined team with four juniors, so they’ll be back,” Ripon coach Rod Wright said. “I’ll bet they’ll win the Northern Section again and do it easy.”
With two of their best players struggling from the field, the Indians needed a sterling effort from Trans-Valley League MVP Aaron Paschini to advance. He scored a game-high 25 points, collected 10 steals and knocked down a big 3 with less than a minute left to push Ripon ahead, 55-50.
Paschini has apparently remained hot since.
“He only missed like two shots in practice (Friday), it was unbelievable,” Wright joked.
Ripon has never made it past this round in Wright’s tenure, and a major roadblock is ahead in the form of the battle-tested Bruins.
St. Patrick-St. Vincent was upset by Lick-Wilmerding 71-68 in overtime of the North Coast Section Division IV finals. The Bruins bounced back in a back way in their NorCal opener, blasting Pierce of Arbuckle, 91-18.
St. Patrick competes in the Tri-County Athletic League’s Rock Division and shared the title with fellow parochial power Salesian of Richmond.
Ranked 18th in Northern California by MaxPpeps, St. Patrick’s season résumé is impressive. Included are wins over Union City’s James Logan (ranked 11th in NorCal) and San Diego Section Open Division invitee Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista.
Ripon has faced and lost to Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinalist West of Tracy and SJS Division IV champion Central Catholic, which is seeded No. 4 in this NorCal bracket.
“This is probably the best team we’re going to play this year,” Wright said. “They have a shot at winning a state championship and they have the talent for it. They play in a league that’s tremendous and they’re in high-level games all the time, so that will be an advantage. We don’t see that game in and game out until we get to the playoffs, and Central Catholic showed us what athleticism looks like.”
While Ripon’s last opponent was loaded with juniors, this one is led by seniors. Six-foot-4 Tavian Henderson (16.1 points, 8.4 rebounds) and 6-6 Romero Mays (9.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 rebounds) are sure to give Ripon some trouble with their length. The Indians must also be mindful of 5-10 sharpshooters B.J. Standley (15.4 points, 5.7 assists, 3.0 steals) and Marquel Johnson (13.6 points, 3.8 assists, 2.3 steals).
“The good thing about being the underdog is the fact that you have nothing to lose,” Wright said. “We can try anything. We’ll have a game plan as usual, but we can try different looks and defenses.
“Our seniors will definitely have to show up, and we’ll need our role players to play well. It will take a full team effort to stay with a team like this.
“If they smack us around early and we don’t respond we could be in for a long evening. We’re hoping to keep it close, because if that’s the case anything can happen. A win like this would be huge for our program.”