RIPON – Head coach Ed Mulder doesn’t have the luxury of a Teagan Manus to steady and steer the Ripon Christian girls basketball team.
The former Southern League MVP was a safety valve for the Knights, a player capable of doing it all.
Carly Tillema is fast-becoming her successor, despite her own inexperience and still-developing offensive game.
The 5-foot, 11-inch senior had eight points, 20 rebounds, six steals, two blocks and two timely fourth-quarter assists as the Knights escaped with a sloppy 43-33 victory over Central Catholic in the semifinal round of the Ripon Christian Tournament on Monday.
Ripon Christian (4-2) will play Argonaut at 7:30 p.m.
Central Catholic will face Hilmar for third place.
“Carly works hard underneath and she’s starting to get some basketball sense,” Mulder said. “She doesn’t play the game other than during basketball season, but she’s starting to see where people will pass the ball, and she’s as good a rebounder, offensively, as there is.”
The game was played at a frantic and choppy pace. Both teams combined to commit 58 turnovers, and it appeared that Central Catholic’s pressure would get the best of the Knights’ young and inexperienced guards.
Ripon Christian stumbled through the first half and trailed 17-16.
Though the turnovers didn’t go away in the second half, Ripon Christian contested every Central Catholic shot, dominated the boards with Tillema and capitalized when it could on the offensive end.
Nicole Graham had 16 points and iced the win from the free-throw line, where she was 9 for 9, including 4 for 4 in the final 1:45.
“It’s the same thing we’ve struggled with all year. Our guards are inexperienced,” said Mulder, whose club defeated the Raiders 38-36 on Dec. 4 at the Escalon Lion’s Club Tournament. “The pressure, this is good for us. We’ve played Sierra and another team at the Liberty tournament; we came out in the third quarter and just stunk it up.
“The girls played hard in the second half. They brought a different energy, and that’s the kind of energy we’re going to need if we’re going to be good, because we don’t have a standout player.”
Not so fast, coach.
Tillema is building a case.
Ripon Christian broke open a back-and-forth game with a 9-1 run to start the fourth quarter. The game was tied at 30-all heading into fourth, but turned on a pair of dimes from Tillema. She muscled down an offensive rebound and her kick out led to an Emily Regusci (four points, three assists) jump shot to make it 35-31.
After Tillema extended the lead to 37-31 with a layup off on in-bounds pass, she spied Ellen Blankers all alone at the backdoor to make it 39-31 with under 2 minutes to go. On that play, Tillema flashed to the 3-point line to help the Knights’ guards break a three-quarters court press.
Mulder said that was the difference.
“The pressure is up front and that means there are people open behind it,” he added. “In the first half, we didn’t attack the pressure. Instead, we let it dictate what we did. Our guards did a better job of getting through that pressure and we had a lot more opportunities.”
Central Catholic (5-7), the newest member of the Valley Oak League, didn’t do itself any favors.
The Raiders had 11 of their 30 turnovers in the fourth quarter and went the final 10:13 without a field goal. They had just two field goals in the entire second half – a baseline jumper by Alexandria Candelario (seven points) and a runner by Danielle Friedrich.
Friedrich scored 11 of her 16 points in the first half. She also had seven rebounds.
Ripon Ch. 35, Ripon 32
Kelly Engel scored 16 points and was 5 for 6 from the free-throw line, while Lyndsey Van Groningen chipped in nine points for Ripon Christian, which will play Lincoln in the championship game at 8 p.m.
Ripon Ch. 43, Lathrop 24
On Saturday, Beth Weststeyn accumulated 18 points and helped spark the Knights’ 19-7 second-half run that iced the win. Paige Vos contributed 10 points and seven blocks. Engel had six points and four steals.