RIPON – When Ripon Christian walked into their locker room during halftime of Friday’s second round Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoff game, the Knights could feel their season slipping away.
Down two points to the visiting 10th-seeded Forest Lake Christian, the Knights were having a hard time covering 6-foot-7 UC Davis-bound Josh Ritchart, who nailed an early three-point shot to prove he was as effective from the perimeter as he was under the basket.
But after a rousing speech from coach Ron Vander Molen, second-seeded Ripon Christian emerged a changed team. With control of the game’s tempo, the Knights pulled away thanks to Logan Vos’ trio of 3-pointers he nailed in succession to start the fourth quarter, building a lead they continued to increase as they ran away with a 59-35 victory that secured the team a spot in NorCals and the semifinal round of the Section tournament.
“In the second half we just came out and played our game,” Vander Molen said. “Logan’s shooting in the second half was huge in helping us control the game’s tempo, and it showed that they responded to the motivation I gave them at halftime.
“I’ve been known to rip my teams in the past and it’s something that I hadn’t done all year long before tonight. I had to remind them of what we wanted to have happen, and they came out and took care of that.”
It was a strong defensive effort that helped set the table for the offensive onslaught that Ripon Christian (21-6) unleashed on the Falcons (13-12) in the game’s second half.
Steve Vander Molen was tasked with covering Ritchart, and as he began to shadow the dominant post player – boxing him out and taking him away from the inside position – players like Vos and Tyler Goslinga were able to pull down the defensive rebounds that were necessary in preserving the lead.
Ritchard scored 10 points in the first half but finished with 16.
“Steve is a tough competitor and he’s one of the best defenders that we have on the team,” said Goslinga, who led the team with 20 points and 10 rebounds. “With him covering Ritchart, we were able to get inside and start making things happen, and that was really huge for us.”
While Vos managed to net only a in the first half, he came out ready to shoot after half-time, using his success on the floor to build his confidence and in turn improve his production even more.
Two of Vos’ five 3-pointers were during a critical run that gave Ripon Christian a 10-point lead in the third quarter, and the three-in-a-row that he nailed at the start of the fourth put the game out of reach permanently.
“I was thinking too much in the first half,” said Vos, who finished the night with 17 points and 10 rebounds. “I came out and the guys started showing me the ball and shots just started falling for me – my confidence started to rise and so did the accuracy of those long shots.
“Steve did a really good job of guarding their big guy and allowing us to position down low and lock down the defensive rebounds after that.”
Vander Molen finished the night with nine points and six rebounds, and two steals.
Ripon Christian will next play the winner of No. 6 Bradshaw Christian who upset third-seeded Brookside Christian 62-59 Friday night. The neutral site game will be played at Galt High School on Tuesday.