No. 5 Sierra of Tollhouse took a two-point lead into the fourth-quarter Tuesday night, went on a 7-1 run to start the final stanza and never looked back in a 47-41 win over third-seeded Ripon Christian for the CIF NorCal Division V Boys Basketball Championship at Ripon Christian.
The Chieftans will face Lynwood for the state championship Friday at noon at Golden 1 Center.
“I love these guys to death,” Sierra coach Ryan Watt said. “They buy into what I say, and they do what I ask. They show up, they work hard, I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
The ball had not bounced the Knights’ way all night, but with 3:36 left in the game that looked like it might change. That is when Logan Kilbert (15 points), leading scorer and floor general for Sierra (31-5), fouled out with the Chieftans leading 40-34. Ripon Christian (26-8) would come no closer than 43-38 with 55 seconds remaining.
“When Kilbert fouled out, I was thinking that we have had other injuries or foul trouble before,” Watt said said. “We always say 'Next man up,' and Nate Kempen stepped up huge; Chace Duerkson, our sophomore that came in, huge. Ben Kliewer, Camden Watt, Luke Brown – when Logan fouled out we were all looking at each other and they said, 'Hey, we got this.’
Kempen was the second-leading scorer of the game with 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers in the second quarter.
“That’s a very good team and I don’t know what their weaknesses are,” Knights coach Mark Hofman said. “They rebound, they stopped our transition, they scored enough to win. Our defense was good again tonight, but we just couldn’t generate enough offense.
“We did have our opportunities. We missed a couple of layups and had some tipped passes that should have gone for baskets. In a close game that makes a big difference.”
Eli Terpsma led Ripon Christian with 10 points along with seven rebounds, including a pair of free throws that drew the Knights within 43-38 in the game’s final minute. Ripon Christian did not attempt a free throw until the fourth quarter.
“We just couldn’t put it together tonight,” Terpsma said. “We had a great season, I guess all things have to end at some point.”
Thys Van Der Hoek flirted with a double-double for the Knights with nine points and 10 rebounds with four blocks.
“If you look through the fog right now you can see that we had an amazing season,” Van Der Hoek said. “We did something that not a lot of classes can do. Even though it hurts right now, it is amazing what this team has done and how many times we have proven ourselves. You have to keep your head up no matter what and keep looking forward.”
After sitting out most of the season with a knee injury sustained in the last football game of the year, Van Der Hoek was just coming back into form when he twisted his ankle in practice last week, forcing him to sit out the thrilling 61-58 win in Redding over No. 2 University Prep on Saturday.
“When I was warming up in Redding, it just wasn’t there,” Van Der Hoek said. “But that game was legendary. Just being in that atmosphere – I don’t even know how to describe it.
“It’s a feeling that you really have to be there to understand.”
This article was contributed by Dave Campbell of The Manteca Bulletin.