RIPON — Forget style points.
The Ripon Christian and Escalon girls basketball teams were happy to get them any way they could in Thursday’s Trans-Valley League tussle in which scoring was at a premium. Despite an 8-of-26 shooting effort from the free-throw line and 29 turnovers, the host Knights were able to squeak out a 33-30 victory that keeps them within striking distance of first-place Ripon and Mountain House.
“Glad to get out of here with a win we shoot 8 of 26 and turn the ball over that many times,” Ripon Christian coach Ed Mulder said. “When you can get away with a win and do those things you have to be thankful.”
Escalon also had a rough night from the free-throw line, making 12 of 30. As poorly as Ripon Christian (3-1 TVL, 8-7 overall) shot from the stripe, reserve forward Elizabeth Weststeyn made them count when her team needed them most. She hit all net in making three of her four attempts in the final 35 seconds, including two straight that gave the Knights the lead for good.
“In practice every single day we shoot probably close to 50 free throws after running and it helps a lot,” Weststeyn said. She scored all five of her points in the fourth period and grabbed a team-high six rebounds.
Jessica Orozco led the Knights with nine points, six rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks. She also had the highlight of the game in the third, blocking a shot and coming down with the rebound on one end before taking it up the court and draining a 3-pointer.
It was Ripon Christian’s only points of the quarter, and by the start of the fourth it still managed to have an 18-17 lead despite racking up more turnovers (26) than points.
“Our girls just never got into a flow offensively,” Mulder said. “All night I was trying to put a finger on what it was. Part of it was our spacing wasn’t good, but they did a nice job of taking away penetration. I give them credit for their defense but we were a step slow tonight.”
Ripon Christian had a chance to break it open earlier when Escalon (1-2, 12-5) struggled most on the offensive end. The Cougars broke the ice a minute, 12 seconds into the game when Jenelle Anderson — who led all scorers with 19 points — converted on a baseline drive, but they didn’t make another field goal until Shelby McCune’s layup with 3:44 left in the second quarter.
The Knights (seven points, seven rebounds, three blocks) led 15-4 until McCune ended Escalon’s dry spell, and her basket sparked a 6-0 run that closed the Cougars in 15-10 by halftime. McCune later gave Escalon its first lead since the beginning of the game, scoring again from the post with 2:17 remaining as Escalon went up, 26-25. Anderson nailed a jumper from the top of the key on the Cougars’ next possession to extend the lead, their largest of the contest, but Molly Hoeksema answered with a tying 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:22 to go.
After Weststeyn’s clutch free throws, Ripon Christian’s Nicole Graham intercepted an entry pass intended for Anderson in the post to help seal it.
“This was big for us,” Weststeyn said. “It’s better to go into next week being 3-1 in league instead of 2-2.”