The week started with sobering news for the Ripon Christian boys basketball team.
MRI results revealed Monday that standout Travis Vander Molen tore his ACL, MCL, meniscus and cartilage in a knee and will miss the remainder of the season. He sustained the injury last Friday in Hughson.
“We’re going to have to learn how to play without him,” said Ripon Christian coach Ron Vander Molen, Travis’ uncle. “He’s our best all-around player. Those are big shoes to fill and we don’t have any one person to fill them. We just talked about different people needing to step up in different ways.”
Austin Alger answered the call in Tuesday’s Trans-Valley League tilt with visiting Hilmar. The 5-foot-10 guard scored 14 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, punctuating the Knights’ 48-41 comeback victory. Hilmar (2-4 TVL, 11-12 overall) had an upset brewing against the league’s top squad, leading 37-27 after three quarters.
With leading scorer Sean Broker (13 points, eight rebounds) and point guard Danny Vander Molen (six assists) playing with illnesses, Alger provided a big lift for a team coping with the loss of a key member. The 6-foot-2 Travis Vander Molen ends the season averaging 11.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
“We were dealing with a lot of adversity tonight and they came through,” coach Vander Molen said. “That was a good win.”
During a timeout early in the fourth quarter, Danny Vander Molen suggested that the team go to a man press defense and it did wonders. Reinvigorated by the energy on defense, Ripon Christian outscored the Yellowjackets 21-4 in the final period.
“The last time we played them I mentioned they were susceptible to the press and Danny remembered that,” Ron Vander Molen said. “It didn’t help us get a bunch of turnovers but it got us going offensively.”
And it was Alger who caught fire at the right time. With Ripon Christian trailing 39-33, Alger buried two straight 3s to tie it and Danny Vander Molen hit a 3 of his own to push the Knights ahead. Hilmar scored its final bucket with 2:30 to go but was scoreless for the rest of the contest.
Nino Ta’a helped Hilmar mount a 14-7 first-quarter lead after nailing three 3s for the bulk of his 13 points.
Hughson 55, Ripon 47
At Hughson, the ill-stricken Indians (4-2, 13-10) fell two games back of Ripon Christian in the standings. They were without one of their top scorers in Aaron Paschini, who was out with the flu. Andrew Wood eight points), who had just recovered from the flu, did his part to help fill the void, but the team could not overcome an 18-for-58 shooting night.
Ripon led 23-19 at halftime and was ahead by five in the third quarter when Hughson (2-4, 12-9) turned the tide by scoring four points off a technical foul.
Cole Stevens paced the Indians with 12 points and Mario Roach contributed 11.