The Ripon Indians celebrate moving onto the Sac-Joaquin Section quaterfinals after beating arch-rival Escalon (Samantha Schmidt).

Bombs away: Ripon nets school-record 15 triples to beat Escalon in quarterfinals

Ron Agostini

RIPON—As Thursday night’s game spiraled into its own crazy orbit, Ripon High senior guard Landon Gillespie almost wished he was a spectator.

 He wasn’t, of course. He just enjoyed an on-the-court perspective – supplemented by his 19 points – as Ripon marched into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinals with a hard-to-believe 78-65 victory over Trans-Valley League rival Escalon.

 Why was it hard to believe, you ask? Try Ripon’s school-record 15 3-pointers, nine of them during a white-hot 33 points in the third period.

“I caught myself smiling in the third quarter every second,” said Gillespie, the Indians ’leading scorer this season. “Passing the ball, shooting the ball, seeing my teammates making those shots—it was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in.”

Ripon senior Landon Gillespie drives down the court during Ripon's third meet up of the season against Escalon (Samantha Schmidt).

Ripon (23-7), the No. 4 seed, must at least be given a shooter’s chance in the semifinals Tuesday night against top-seeded Venture Academy. The Indians more than deserve that opportunity.

Most of the game looked like the typical intensity expected from arch-rivals. Escalon (23-7) led 29-22 at the break. But in the third period, the Indians reached a level of marksmanship that may have surprised themselves.

Perhaps inspired by their large student section nearby, the boys in red could not miss. Gillespie netted three triples, and Dawson Downs (19 points), Bradley Reedy (13 points) and Jack Schoolland each hit a pair.  The halftime deficit reversed into a 55-52 lead with eight minutes left.

“I’ve been waiting for that to happen all year,” said Ripon coach Dean Balcao, who watched his team fire mostly blanks – as in 27 percent from the floor – at the same venue last week against TVL champion Ripon Christian. “I guess it took (30) games.”

Helping to break the school record, Landon Gillespie made three 3-pointers (Samantha Schmidt).

 What made it more effective was that it came from multiple players and all angles. Escalon mixed defenses and switched personnel to no avail. Senior point guard Ethan Garza, who ended a memorable career with 30 points, answered Ripon’s fireworks with three triples and 14 of his points during the third period.

“I’ve never witnessed a display (like that) at the varsity level," said Escalon sixth-year coach Nate Bartelink, who’s steering the Cougars in the right direction. “Our guys fought. It just spiraled out of control. We couldn’t stop them…15 3’s—what are you going to do?”

To Escalon’s credit, it responded to Ripon’s explosion with its own 23 points during the third period. In fact, the Cougars trailed by only 57-55 with seven minutes left when Ripon applied the haymaker 13-2 run. A steal and break-away slam by Marcus Madoski (13 points) proved to be the dagger.

All the well-entertained crowd could process, however, were all those Ripon bombs. The Indians broke the previous school record of 14, compiled in 2005 by a Ripon powerhouse team led by Justin Graham. The former Indians and San Jose State star, and former Ripon coach, watched his old team’s record fall and didn’t seem to mind.

Ripon's Ty Herrin and Bradley Reedy fight for control of the ball with Escalon's Ethan Garza (Samantha Schmidt).

As for Escalon, Bartelink held his team in the locker room for about 30 minutes afterward. The Cougars finally emerged red-eyed but proud. There was no shame in this loss, the third to Ripon this season. The 23 wins were Escalon’s best in 19 years.

“This team has helped us take another step,” Bartelink said.“They have a lot to be proud of…There was just nothing we could do in the second half.”

 Ripon’s reward, besides a date in the semifinals, will be a berth in the CIF Northern California Regionals.  The Indians will find it hard, however, to top what they did Thursday night.

“We didn’t want the year to end like that,” Gillespie said. “Us seniors want to keep playing. We knew we had to bring it.”

SJS D-IV Boys Quarterfinals

Ripon 78, Escalon 65

Escalon       14-15-23-13---65

Ripon            8-14-33-23—78

Escalon  (23-7)—Ethan Garza30, Ben Ferreira 9, Sam Jimenez 8, Daniel Gonzalez 5, Logan Huebner 5, Ryan Murphy 4, Ben Fletcher 3, Ryan Lewis 1. Totals 25 8-14 65.

Ripon (23-7)—Landon Gillespie 19, Dawson Downs 19, Marcus Madoski 13, Bradley Reedy 13, Jack Schoolland 9, Ethan Baur 4, Ty Herrin 1. Totals 29 5-9 78.

3-Pt Goals—Escalon 7 (Garza 5, Gonzalez, Ferreira), Ripon 15 (Gillespie 5, Downs 4, Reedy 3, Schoolland 3). Team Fouls—Escalon 14, Ripon 15. Fouled Out—Gillespie.