The Ripon High varsity boys’ basketball team has now won 15 straight contests over Hilmar dating back to the 2004-05 season, including eight straight at Hilmar.
With 10 seconds left in regulation, Hilmar had possession with the opportunity to take the final shot, but instead as the clock continued to tick, Ripon’s Aaron Paschini stole the ball from Alec Cano of Hilmar as he looked to make a turn and sprinted down the opposite end for a three-point play.
The three points with 2.4 second remaining gave Ripon a 53-50 lead and the Indians were able to fend off Hilmar despite a slow start to begin league with a 1-0 start and force Hilmar to begin 0-1.
“I thought we were going to overtime honestly and then I don’t think we would’ve won then,” said Ripon head coach Rod Wright. “Credit to Hilmar for playing so well, but the difference was we made our free-throws late in the game and that is where we always struggle.”
“We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” said Hilmar head coach Paul Willis. “Now we will see how we respond. Hopefully we respond with a positive effort just tough since that was right there but hopefully we can respond positively.”
Hilmar started off the game with a positive response and built a 14-7 lead after the end of the first quarter. Ripon then settled in the second and outscored Hilmar 23-13 after going on a 15-0 run mid way through the second.
Paschini had 5 of his 18 points in that four minute span, but also forced over five turnovers from the Hilmar offense during that run. Paschini also finished with 7 steals and two blocks.
“It’s very tough for us to come to Hilmar even though we have had previous success, so I told the guys to be ready to come out and play,” Wright added. “We had a lot of turnovers and didn’t convert but luckily we got that steal at the end. Aaron) is such a tough player.”
Hilmar closed out the second with a 13-8 run and was down 30-29 at the half after Ripon’s half court trap resulted in a different second.
“We are not big enough to walk down against a team like this, plus Cody Haines got in early foul trouble and that hurt us,” said Wright.
Kole Gonzalez stepped in and was critical for Ripon after scoring eight points and tallying eight rebounds for the game. Gonzalez was also 4 of 4 from the free-throw line in the fourth.
Ripon forced 20 steals and all eight of the team’s player from Tuesday scored at least a point for the game.
In the final quarter, Ripon extended their lead to five points in the closing three minutes before Hilmar went up 50-48.
Ripon’s Haines tied the game at 50 apiece with 31 seconds left and Hilmar was left with the final possession.
Paschini forced Cano to turn the ball over and completed a three-point play to secure the Indians seventh consecutive victory.
Hilmar’s top scorer was Cano with 17 points and Nino Ta-a was second on the team with 13.
“Bad passing in this game from us as well, we kept digging in the hole,” Willis added. “Now we will see how we respond after a game like this where we proved we can hang with a tough team like Ripon.”
Next for Ripon will be the team’s first home league contest against Escalon at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Hilmar will travel to Hughson to take on the Huskies at 7:30 p.m. Friday.