Ripon Christian fans joined their team on the court for a post-game victory photo (Samantha Schmidt).

Winner-take-all: Ripon Christian claims 4th straight TVL title by topping city rival

Ron Agostini

RIPON—Ripon Christian coach Mark Hofman’s joy was easy to see as he slapped hands with the Knights’ student section at game’s end Friday night.

 Both he and Ripon coach Dean Balcao understood that these moments don’t happen every other day:  Two schools, one public and one private, small town, locked in a winner-take-all showdown on the regular season’s final night. The rivalry, sportsmanlike but keen, features teams that know each other by their first names.

A Ripon Christian coach high fives his team as they won their fourth straight TVL title (Samantha Schmidt).

Hofman and the Knights earned their joy, launched by a 54-42 victory over Ripon for RC’s fourth straight Trans-Valley League title.

Ripon Christian never trailed and didn’t let the Indians within single digits of the lead in the second half. But don’t tell Hofman the victory came easily or that it was routine.

He knows better.

“If you ask me, ‘Would you rather go 10-2, or 2-10 and beat Ripon twice?' I wouldn’t answer right away,” he said.

Rivalry aside, Ripon Christian (21-6, 11-1) clearly has improved. Since their last-second loss at Escalon, the Knights have strung together 10 straight wins, two of them over Ripon. Their confidence was nearly tangible in front of a large crowd, including fans and players from neighboring bergs, at the Ripon gym.

Ripon Christian's Jake Vander Veen breaks away from Ripon High's Logan Lefebvre and Ethan Baur (Samantha Schmidt).

  Ripon Christian essentially won the game with a 22-8 game-opening burst. The terms quickly were set—6-foot-9 senior post Jace Beidleman built a wall at the rim while Jake Vander Veen (19 points) and Amos Cady (12 points) sliced and diced to the basket.

 Beidleman, a reed-thin missile in the paint, blocked nine shots and simply denied Ripon any easy access. He also altered several shots and induced a number of misses, leading to this: The Indians connected on only 14 of 52 shots for a Klondike-cold 27 percent. Beidleman’s nine rejections were only one shy of his season-high.

“He (Beidleman) is a rim protector. He plays like a one-man zone. There are not many 6-9 guys in the area,” said Balcao,  Ripon’s first-year coach.  “It was a very emotional night (Senior Night for Ripon) and we did not get off to a good start. If we don’t shoot well, we don’t win.”

RC's Jace Beidleman (right) blocks a shot by Ripon's Dawson Down's (Samantha Schmidt).

Beidleman’s presence also allows RC’s other defenders to overplay, because everything funnels down to where shots go to die—to Beidleman. If it looked like he enjoyed himself swatting everything sideways, well, he did.

 “The energy was there. Everybody was having fun on the court,” Beidleman said in reference to the players’ mutual familiarity. “It’s like street-ball or middle-school ball again.”

Ripon Christian’s fast start was keynoted by Beidleman’s soft 8-footer off the glass and a triple from the wing by Mason Tameling. Cady ripped the ball from a Ripon rebounder and flew coast-to-cast for a hoop, a 13-6 lead and a timeout from the Indians’ bench.

With seconds left in the half, Cady followed a Beidleman block with a successful drive and a 43-30 lead at the break. Vander Veen, deploying a series of clever pivot moves and Euro steps, scored all 10 of the Knights’ second-period points to offset a Ripon rally. RC’s lead reached 16 points in the second half.

“We couldn’t be too up on ourselves because we had won so many games in a row,” Vander Veen said. “We had to go in focused.”

Ripon's Landon Gillespie shoots past RC defender Amos Cady (Samantha Schmidt.)

The Indians answered with senior guard Landon Gillespie, who finished with 17 points and a slow walk to the bench after his fifth foul. Ripon’s primary problem was elevation—as in no one on the roster within five inches of Beidleman.

“He cleans up a lot of mistakes,” Hofman praised. “I don’t know if we’re that good on defense, or Jace is that good.”

Probably some of both, but his defense gives Ripon Christian a good chance to defend its Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title starting next week. The brackets will be announced Saturday. Ripon (21-7, 10-2) expects a high seed in Division IV.

The latest version of RC-Ripon served as a reminder of the town’s stranglehold on TVL basketball. Since Modesto Christian’s exit from the league in 2015, only two schools have topped the TVL—Ripon and RC.

“Ripon is a basketball town, man,” Hofman said.

And RC again is the TVL’s best.


Ripon Christian 54, Ripon 42

Ripon Christian 22-10-11-11—54

Ripon                    12-8-10-12—42

Ripon Christian (21-6, 11-1)—Jake Vander Veen 19, Amos Cady 12, Luke Crivello 8, Jace Beidleman 8, Mason Tameling 7. Totals 18 15-24 54.

Ripon (21-7, 10-2)—Landon Gillespie 17, Dawson Downs 7, Marcus Madoski 5, Ty Herrin 4, Bradley Reedy 4, Jack Schoolland 3, Logan Lefebvre 2. Totals 14 10-15 42.

3-Pt Goals—RC 3 (Tameling 2, Crivello), Ripon 4 (Gillespie2, Schoolland, Reedy). Team Fouls—RC 19, Ripon 21. Fouled Out- –Gillespie (R), Ethan Baur (R).

JV—Ripon won