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Ripon postseason run comes to end behind Arcata big-mans 11 blocks
Ripons Conner Jones tries to get a shot over Arcatas Tom Witzel on Saturday. - photo by HIME ROMERO

RIPON - The performance it would have taken for Ripon High to continue its CIF State Boys Basketball Championship run took a big hit with a one-point first quarter. Ripon eventually found its stride but the Arcata Tigers never lost theirs, eliminating the Indians with a 63-51 win Saturday.

Ripon (19-14) complicated an already challenging task when they produced absolutely nothing offensively in the game’s first 10 minutes. Arcata 6-foot-7 big-man Tom Witzel made his presence felt immediately, blocking four of the Indians first six shots and eliminating any Ripon aggressiveness penetrating to the basket.

Arcata (26-5) knocked down a couple of jumpers, got a few transition baskets and nailed a 3-pointer on its way to a frustratingly quick 17-1 lead early in the second quarter.

“We gave them a very good start,” Ripon head coach Rod Wright said. “They’re a good team, but the change was with those six blocks in the first three minutes of the game. Those blocks changed everybody’s attitude from there.

“Everybody that went inside expected their shot to get blocked and that’s why he had 11. He’s the real-deal; he can play.”

The Indians turned to the transition game early in the second, racing out on the offensive end immediately after gaining possession. Ripon speed-guard Cole Herrin was able to beat the Tigers back on defense, setting up a Conner Jones layup and a pair of Kyle Wengel 3-pointers. Arcata, as it would the entire contest, answered back, displaying the ultimate team-consistency, going through its offensive sets for high percentage shots and closing the half with back-to-back 3-pointers from guards Will Taylor (16 points) and Latrell Wilson (16 points) to go back up by 16.

“They’re a great program with a great history so we knew coming in that we would have to take care of the ball,” Arcata point guard Taylor said. “We hit a couple of shots and kind of got going from there. That’s the ideal way to start a game, yet we knew that they would make a run later in the game and even in the second quarter.

“We didn’t try to get too emotional, or too ahead of ourselves.”

Ripon finished with three players in double-figures, with Herrin and Josh McCreath pacing the club with 13. Jake McCreath had 12 points to go along with 13 rebounds and four blocks. With the strong finish, Ripon magnified the damage of spotting Arcata a 10-point head start, finishing separated by just a basket over the final three quarters.

“For some reason we just didn’t start the game out like we should have,” Ripon senior Jake McCreath said. “We spotted them 16 points early and in the second half the deficit was too big.

“Our comeback was just a little too short, but it was a great postseason run.”