MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Mountain House won’t intimidate its opponents with size, but these scrappy Mustangs now have the attention of their Trans-Valley League foes.
The TVL’s newest member, who doesn’t have a senior class, is now alone in first place at 2-0 after warding off Ripon Christian 48-45 in a spirited affair Thursday.
Arielle Tala (eight points, six rebounds) buried a shot from the top of the key to put Mountain House (8-3) up for good, 45-43, with 2 minutes remaining, and Tatyana Jackson later iced it with an and-one conversion with 43.8 seconds to go.
The visiting Knights (2-0, 6-7), outscored 10-4 in the final 5 minutes, had two chances to tie it in the final 10 seconds but was unable to get a shot off on each possession. Jackson led all scorers with 16 points, and 5-foot-8 Mariana Holtz, the tallest Mountain House player to see action, grabbed 12 boards.
Point guard Jessica Orozco was stellar all-around, finishing with eight points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for Ripon Christian. Jessica Van Vliet added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Ripon (1-0, 8-6) and Escalon (1-0, 12-3) each had byes this week, but Mountain House has already knocked off two teams that qualified for the postseason a year ago. On Tuesday, the Mustangs beat defending champion Riverbank, which Escalon edged 46-42 Thursday.
“They have a very good team and they may be the class of the league, I don’t know,” Ripon Christian coach Ed Mulder said. “We played with them and we were right there, we just let it slip away in the end.”
He also said the game may have been lost in the beginning, when the smaller Mustangs were able to get second- and third-chance opportunities off the offensive glass while Ripon Christian struggled to make point-black and uncontested layups.
“We missed a lot of easy shots — early on and late,” Mulder said.
The Knights also had trouble matching Mountain House’s speed and energy at times, which led to unforced turnovers. Ripon Christian finished with 19 giveaways against the Mustangs’ eight.
“We need to start playing hard in the first half,” said Ripon Christian guard Nicole Graham, who contributed nine points. “We have a problem with that at times. The whole team has to do their job. Everybody has to block out and play defense in transition.”
Ripon Christian came out of halftime trailing 27-22 but settled into a groove in the third quarter, when Molly Hoeksema and Orozco anchored an 11-0 run. Orozco assisted the first three buckets in the flurry, while Hoeksema accounted for the final seven points.
The tandem capped it off midway through the quarter with a nice end-to-end play started by Orozco on defense, as she blocked a shot and then came up with a steal before dishing it to Hoeksema for a transition score. That gave Ripon Christian a 33-27 lead, prompting Mountain House coach Reno Ursal to burn a 30-second timeout.
“We attacked the middle a little bit better and once we did that the outside was open,” Mulder said. “I was glad about the way we came back in the second half but we can’t give up 27 points in the first half and expect to always come back from that.”
Mountain House was able to weather the storm. Jackson ended its third-quarter dry spell with one of her three 3-pointers — the Mustangs totaled six for the game — with 2:53 left. She banked in another trey to start the scoring in the fourth, closing them in, 37-36.
Jenessa Pena (nine points), one of two juniors on a Mustangs team filled with underclassmen, helped Mountain House recapture the lead by hitting two of three free throws after she was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 3:45 left. The home team never trailed from there.
“They’ve got some excellent shooters on that team and they move the ball,” Mulder said. “We didn’t do a better job of closing out on their shooters.”
Valley Oak League
Central Catholic 69, Weston Ranch 66
MODESTO — Asia Staups produced 16 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks, but it wasn’t enough for Weston Ranch (0-1 VOL, 2-8 overall) to overcome a 19-for-33 effort from the free-throw line on Wednesday. Jennifer De La Cruz and Cierra Jones added 14 apiece.
Manteca 41, Sierra 38
Gino Campiotti poured in 16 points as the Buffaloes (2-0 VOL, 9-5 overall) held off their cross-town rival Wednesday. Jorge Cedano added 10 points, all coming in the second quarter.
Isaac Bill contributed five points but all of them coming in crunch time, including a key 3-pointer. Derek Range was instrumental on the defensive end and secured a late rebound to help seal it. JT Ortiz-Martinez kept Sierra within striking distance by hitting two 3s in the fourth quarter and finished with a team-high 10 points.
East Union 57,
Weston Ranch 47
Three players handled most of the scoring for the host Lancers, who improved to 2-0.
Amaya Higgins and Nina Murphy shared team-high honors with 15, while Mariah James had 14.
Weston Ranch 54,
Central Catholic 21
Justice Stitts nearly outscored Central Catholic herself, finishing with 20 points for the Cougars on Wednesday.
Manteca 55, Sierra 49
Saleem Safi’s 12 points spearheaded a balanced scoring effort for Manteca (1-1, 6-8). Jeffrey Cruz and Dylan Gross chipped in nine apiece.
Central Catholic 36
The Spartans (2-0, 7-4) cruised to victory after leading 26-11 at halftime.
Raylen Carter led the way with 16 points and four assists. Braydon Rollins followed with 10 points and two steals.
Ripon 70, Hilmar 16
HILMAR — The Indians led 33-4 after the first quarter in Tuesday’s Trans-Valley League opener.
Adam Wood paced Ripon with 20 points. Adam Schroen collected 17 points, 10 assists and six steals. Dallas Waters added 12 points.
East Union 44,
Weston Ranch 15
It was truly a team effort for East Union, which had every player contributed at least a point and a rebound.
Stephanie Mata was the high scorer with eight points. Sarah Gloeckler and Chelsey Costa chimed in with five each.