MODESTO — There wasn’t a frown on the faces of Ripon players, who watched as Central Catholic celebrated a hard-earned 64-59 overtime victory with fans on Friday.
Both teams had reason to celebrate.
The Raiders advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinals along with the CIF Northern California Regional Championships. They’ll take on No. 5 Summerville at Tokay High of Lodi next Wednesday. As for Ripon (23-6), it just took the top-seeded squad and runaway favorite in this bracket to the brink of elimination in this exciting second-round tilt.
“My golf game will get going now, so I’m not disappointed,” Ripon coach Rod Wright joked. “No, we’re not unhappy at all. I told our seniors it stinks to lose but that’s the way you go out.”
The Indians had an opportunity to secure the upset at the end of regulation, but Andrew Wood’s off-kilter jump shot from the baseline missed long. Central Catholic (23-5) ran away with it in the extra period, scoring seven unanswered points between two Ripon field goals that were both converted by Paschini, who hit a meaningless 3 in the final seconds.
“We went out the best way possible, which was to almost knock the No. 1 seed out of the game,” Paschini said after finishing with a game-high 23 points. “We played well as a team. We did everything we could; things just kind of went against us in the end.”
Central Catholic was able to squeak it out thanks in large part to reserve Amrit Dhaliwai (18 points, six steals), who energized the Raiders on both ends of the floor. He single-handedly forced turnovers on Ripon’s first two possessions of the fourth quarter and turned those to easy fastbreak buckets, and in the final minute he answered back-to-back 3s from Wood and Paschini with one of his own that tied it with 33 seconds left. Fellow guard Jarred Rice also had 18 points to go with 10 rebounds to lead Central Catholic.
“One of the keys to our success this year up to this point is that you’re always going to have a kid who doesn’t play up to their caliber, but somebody’s always picked them up,” Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson said. “Amrit did a real good job tonight of picking up our team. He gave us momentum and hit some big shots.”
Cooper Wilson (10 points), Josh Hamilton (seven points, eight rebounds) and 6-foot-7 Peter Hamilton (1-0 points, nine rebounds, four blocks) — one of just two seniors for Central Catholic —struggled from the field but each did have key moments.
Peter Hamilton in particular was clutch in overtime. After scoring on a tough runner in the lane that stretched Central’s lead to 60-56 with 51 seconds remaining, he drew a charge on a driving Paschini in Ripon’s ensuing possession.
Ripon’s three senior starters — Cody Haines (four points, 12 rebounds), Kole Gonzales (six points, 14 rebounds) and Wood (13 points, six rebounds) — were a big reason why it nearly knocked off the tournament’s top team. While Wood came through with big shots throughout, the undersized frontline duo of Haines and Gonzales helped set the tone with their physical play in the post.
“We had to be (physical): they’re bigger than us,” Haines said. “I had a personal challenge to keep Peter Hamilton to 10 points and that’s what I did. I feel like I have a ‘W’ in my mind.”
Cole Stevens contributed nine points and five rebounds. It was Stevens who sent Ripon to the quarterfinal round on Wednesday with his buzzer-beating 3-pointer from half-court against No. 9 Union Mine. He accounted for the first five points of Friday’s game, and Paschini’s layup made it 7-0.
It was a shocking start and a surprisingly competitive game until the end, but Wilson expected that kind of effort from the Indians.
“I’ve been here long enough as a coach to know everybody’s gotten to this point for a reason,” Wilson said.