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Section finals loss bittersweet for Vander Molens
Ripon Christian High boys basketball coach Ron Vander Molen and his son Steve lost a 68-64 overtime heartbreaker against Victory Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship game Friday at Arco Arena. Vander Molen could have been just the third person in section history to win a title as both a player and a coach. - photo by HIME ROMERO
SACRAMENTO — It was a bittersweet end to the Ripon Christian boys basketball team’s run through the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs for the Vander Molens.

As a player, Ron Vander Molen helped RC win the second of its nine all-time section titles in 1981 by pouring in a game-high 31 points in a 93-75 victory over Dixon.

In Friday’s section championship game against Victory Christian at Arco Arena, he had an opportunity to become just the third person (Greg Harcos, Jesuit; Ken Green, St. Mary’s) to win a title as both a player and a coach.

The Knights fell short 68-64 in overtime.

“It would have been a tremendously better experience had we won,” he said. “I probably feel worse that Steve for whatever reason.”

It was a big day for Steve, a senior starter on than team and Ron’s son.

Young Vander Molen celebrated his 18th birthday Friday, and while he didn’t speak much about it leading up to the game he was fully aware of the past success of his father and the program.

Ripon Christian made its 15th section championship-game appearance and won six straight from 1991-96.

“My dad is a teacher at school, and some people at school were saying, ‘Hey, your dad got it know it’s your turn,’” Steve said. “That’s something that kind of stays in the back of your mind. It would have been cool. I really wanted it — we all did.”

Steve Vander Molen was more jovial coming out of the locker room than he was coming off the court, where he scored a season-best 17 points.

“He really stepped up offensively when we really needed it,” coach Vander Molen said. “That combined with the fact that he had to work so hard defensively in the second half, I was really proud of his play.”

Steve Vander Molen came into the game averaging under eight points a game and relished his role all season as the team’s defensive stopper. At 6 feet, 2 inches, Steve always drew the toughest defensive assignment no matter what position the opposing team’s best player plays.

But on Friday he kept the Knights in the game on the offensive end after they fell behind 41-32, their largest deficit, in the third quarter.

Vander Molen took over, scoring 12 of his points in the second half.

“I kind of just played it as it came,” he said. “Sometimes you’re just feeling it.”

After the game he didn’t know how to feel. He was honored with a medal representing the Sportsmanship Award that is handed out following every section title game.

It was his 18th birthday, and he and his teammates scrapped and battled all game to put on a show on a night when three other contests — 65-55 Sacramento over Vista del Lago in D-III boys, 75-45 St. Mary’s over Sacrmaento in D-III girls and 67-25 Bradshaw Christian over Turlock Christian in D-V girls — played at Arco were blowouts.

But none of that softened the blow of defeat, not at first.

“You never say it feels good to lose, but you work as hard as you can,” Steve said. “It stinks to lose but I think we all left it all on the court.”