RIPON — After starting the season on a six-game winning streak, Ripon Christian is now reeling and searching for answers as it begins its defense of the Trans-Valley League championship.
The Knights have dropped three straight — two against league opponents — to quicker, guard-oriented teams, the latest a 54-50 decision to Riverbank on Friday despite a dominant effort from Andrew Vander Weide. The 6-foot-6 junior scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 14 rebounds.
“Most of the teams that we’re playing this season have all guards,” Vander Weide said. “There aren’t too many bigs in our league, and it’s just hard for us to defend guards.”
Derek Hernandez, a 6-4 center, spearheaded Riverbank (2-0 TVL, 8-7 overall) with 16 points but was mostly a beneficiary of his teammates’ heads-up passing, which freed him up for wide-open looks downs low. Three other Bruins finished with eight points each.
“There’s not just one guy. They will pass the ball and whoever is open will that that shot,” Ripon Christian coach Mark Hofman said. “You can’t key on one guy.
“They have a great system,” he added. “They attack the basket well and they play great defense, so you have to give them a lot of credit. Riverbank plays well.”
Riverbank led for most of the game and had its widest advantage at 10 when Robert Cunha drained a 3-pointer to make it 43-33 just 16 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Ripon Christian (0-2, 9-6) looked to its post players to stay within reach. Ty Beidleman (11 points, 10 rebounds) converted a traditional 3-point play on the next possession, and Vander Weide scored six straight points to close the Knights to 47-42. Vander Weide made two put-backs in the final minute to get them closer, 53-50, then Ramiro DeAlonzo made one of two free throws for Riverbank with 26.8 seconds left.
Vander Weide had 21 points in RC’s TVL-opening loss at Mountain House on Wednesday, but no other Knight finished in double figures.
“Andrew’s keeping us in games right now,” Hofman said. “As the game goes on they start to double (team) him and triple him and we have to find some other offense.”
Ripon Christian was sparked early by Jadon Vander Molen, who scored all of his nine points with three 3s in the first half. Reigning TVL MVP Zach Cortright (five rebounds, four assists, three steals) was held scoreless until he tipped one in with 2:28 remaining in the game.
Riverbank bothered Ripon Christian with its activity on the defensive end, forcing 23 turnovers while committing just 10 of its own.
“It’s really basic basketball stuff,” Hofman said. “You cannot turn the ball over 18 times a game, you have to be able to run your offense and you have to be able to play defense. There’s no secret here. It’s simple, basic basketball things, and we just have to get better at those.”
Ripon Christian 61,
Jacob Van Groningen led four Ripon Christian players in double figures with 14 points.
Gavin Silveira added 13 points, while Austin Ries and Brock Nunes each had 10.