RIPON – The Ripon Christian High Knights performed Wednesday night with the confidence and conviction of a team that believes it’s been given a second chance.
Their 77-23 romp over Vacaville Christian, a score that doesn’t indicate the degree of the Knights’ dominance, swept them into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title game. They’ll face top-seeded Fortune Early of Sacramento, a 65-58 victor in its semifinal over Woodland Christian, Saturday at noon at Golden 1 Center.
Ripon Christian (22-7) greeted Vacaville Christian with its best haymaker of the season, a 33-point face-punch in the first quarter. The Knights drained their first four shots and eight of their first nine, including two triples apiece by Luke Crivello (11 points) and Eli Terpsma.
Before Vacaville Christian broke into a sweat, it was 33-4. Game over.
“I think we are hungry,” RC coach Mark Hofman said after his team’s 14th straight win. ”They just shot the lights out.”
Ripon Christian planted the seeds to this rout during last week’s tense 69-60 overtime win over Leroy Greene Academy of Sacramento. Trailing by two in the final seconds of regulation, the Knights’ 6-foot-7 post Jace Beidleman pulled down an offensive rebound and – after a fortuitous carom – scored the most important basket in RC’s season up to now.
Having dodged that second-round bullet, the Knights displayed the kind of talent that positions them for the school’s 12th section blue banner.
“That always wakes you up when you have a close call like that,” Hofman said. “We were one second from being done. Our practices after that were really focused.”
The 6-3 Terpsma, a senior who averages 19 points a game, has blossomed into one of the area’s premier players. He netted five 3-pointers against Vacaville Christian before halftime en route to 17 points. He and the starters were rested through much of the second half, as the officials ran the clock through the fourth quarter.
Terpsma recalled how the Knights hit only three triples against Leroy Greene. They responded with 12 vs. VC.
“We were really upset the way we shot the last time,”Terpsma said. “Once you get the form down, confidence is the No. 1 thing to be a good shooter. We did that tonight.”
No. 3 seed Vacaville Christian (23-3), which carried its own 13-game winning streak, was mismatched vs. RC. Coach Rick Everhart reported that the Falcons lost their top rebounder to a serious knee injury about a month ago, though it’s doubtful he would have mattered against the RC onslaught.
“We knew they (Ripon Christian) were a very good team, tall and physical and athletic,” Everhartsaid. “It would be a challenge.”
The Falcons got here in part by winning the Sierra Delta League title, their first conference title in 15 years. Unfortunately for them, they collided with a team hard-wired for the moment.
Hofman and his staff prepared Ripon Christian with the most difficult schedule in school history. The Knights have absorbed lopsided losses, easy wins and the closest of calls last week against Leroy Greene.
“It woke us up,” Terpsma said. “I was hoping it would, and it did.”
Next stop Golden 1.