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Nelson scores 38, leads Crusaders past Ripon
Efren Sifuentes flies through the lane to put up a floater Tuesday at Modesto Christian. - photo by BRANDON PETERSEN
SALIDA — He’s as automatic as they come.

Tuesday night at Modesto Christian High, Reeves Nelson, the Crusader’s UCLA-bound wunderkind, just missed a triple-double in leading MC past Ripon, 75-58.

Nelson scored 38 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, handed out eight assists and blocked four shots in a contest the Crusaders led from wire to wire.

But Nelson’s domination was hardly the story.

Although the win was the 10th straight for the Crusaders over their closest Trans Valley League “rival,” the Indians played the best they have in years against the annual state title contender.

In fact, when Ryan Baker splashed home his second 3-pointer with 7:40 left in the fourth quarter, the Indians only trailed 61-53, and for the first time in a long time, MC head coach Gary Porter had something to sweat about in the month of January.

“We played very well,” Ripon head coach Rod Wright said. “Yeah we lost by 20, but we were at eight points midway through the fourth quarter. We just couldn’t quite get our shots to drop, they made a couple of transition layups and got the free-throws.”

Ripon played hard well into the fourth, working the Crusader lead to as little as 10 with four minutes left in the contest.

But while the Indians missed on several open looks in the final moments, MC guard Liautaud Prophete hit two pivotal layups to extend MC’s margin and provide enough breathing room for an anti-climactic finish.

“If we could have made our shots, or those layups we missed, or balls we kicked out of bounds, or Reeves blocking shots from behind, you get those and it’s a four-point game at the end,” Wright said. “Then the whole dynamic changes. Could we have beat them? I don’t know, but that changes the dynamic.”

Nelson was Nelson in the first half, finishing with 19 and handing out six assists alone in the second quarter.

Be it a one-handed rebound turned coast-to-coast layup, or a no-look half-court pass on a dime to a streaking teammate under the hoop, Nelson was no less than brilliant.

But quietly both Matthew Ratto and Efren Sifuentes put up 18 for Ripon, keeping the Indians within striking distance.

Ratto’s success was especially satisfying for the sharp-shooting guard considering MC’s vocal student cheering section was all over him like a Tar Heel at Cameron Indoor.

“We got the shots we wanted,” Wright said. “We were coming back. We were doing all the things that we had set up to do. Nelson’s going to get his. We were hoping that Johnny Hutton would stay out of plays, but Liau Prophete picked it up in the second half. He kept hitting the big shot to slow us down.”

Ratto’s trey at the 4:20 mark of the third made it 51-40, MC, and Sifuentes’ three-point splash with 31 seconds left made it 61-50.

“We got good pressure on their guards, we made them work,” Wright said. “At the very end it was just a matter of they got a few breaks, quick transition, and we didn’t make the most of our opportunities.”

Dane Wells’ jumper with four minutes left Ripon down 10.

Prophete and Nelson took over from there.

“Reeves just did everything,” Wright said. “It’s tough to stop someone who’s that big. We did a fairly good job. We got three fouls on him, all offensive.”

In the end, Wright was pleased with his team’s effort.

“Shoot, we played quality ball,” he said.

Baker finished with 10.

Ripon shot 7 of 14 from the free throw line and hit seven 3-pointers.

The Indians (2-1 TVL, 11-9 overall) host RC Friday.

Hughson 70, Ripon Christian 55
It took the the Huskies just one quarter to produce 27 points, its entire game-total a week ago Tuesday against Ripon, as Hughson nailed nine first-half treys on its way to a shocking blowout victory.

Arie Den Dulk paced the Knights with 19, Clayton Prins had nine and David Vander Schaaf eight.

“They found their range against us,” RC head coach Ron Vander Molen said. “There’s not much else to say but that.”

RC (1-2 TVL, 10-9 overall) travels to Ripon Friday night.