SALIDA — Ripon High not only embraces the challenge of playing in the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic every year, but it doesn't mind an early first-round wakeup call.
The Indians, whose commute to the tournament is only four miles, play in the opener more often than not, as they did Wednesday in dropping a 60-46 decision to Weston Ranch.
"We know how to play at 10:30 in the morning," said coach Rod Wright. "For us, the Modesto Christian Tournament is the breakfast tournament.
"A lot of teams don't know how to act when they're the opening game. We've played teams in the early game the first day that have gone on to win the tournament, but we've given them a good first game."
Weston Ranch led nearly wire-to-wire, as Dylan Alexander had 16 points, three steals and three assists during a 24-2 run that gave the Cougars (5-3) a 24-4 lead two minutes into the second quarter.
But Ripon (2-7) is playing without four players in its top eight due to injury and illness. Two of those players Josh McCreath (knee surgery) and Anthony Baciocco (shoulder surgery) are lost for the season.
Still, the Indians after never found themselves blown out, and a 9-0 fourth-quarter run forced first-year Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan to reinsert his starters for the final two minutes.
"Ripon has a basketball culture that they've built from the days of Justin Graham and Nathan Clark," Teevan said. "Our guys are trying to lay that foundation, and that's why the lead went from 23 to 10 in a snap, in a minute."
Alexander led the Cougars with 23 points, including five 3-pointers, while Daiveon Leverett added 18 in the post and Eric Duncan had 13 while handling the point.
Teevan had his own way of dealing with the early start, calling his team to school at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday for practice and lifting.
"We know Ripon's good," Teevan said. "They're never bad. They play us like teams in our league will play us they'll go in a zone and slow us down."
Henk Gaalswyk had 11 points and Cole Herrin 10 for Ripon, which despite being generally outmatched in this tournament has no intent of snapping its streak of 12 appearances.
"This is the most fun and most frustrating tournament we play in all year," Wright said. "But there's no TVL (Trans-Valley League) team other than Modesto Christian that understands that. After playing here, we can walk into Downey (Jan. 2) and play at that level because we're used to it. That's the key."
EL CAMINO REAL 75, TURLOCK 36 The Bulldogs were having trouble keeping up with the much-quicker Conquistadors, falling behind 41-24 at halftime, and then it got much worse.
ECR saved its best for the third quarter, when it held Turlock scoreless for the first seven minutes to extend a 17-point halftime lead to 59-24. In all, it was a 24-3 third quarter, and when the Conquistadors hit a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, the running clock was triggered.
Turlock (8-5) took an early 8-3 lead by attacking the basket and getting to the foul line after breaking ECR's press. But the press quickly wore down the Bulldogs, and the Conquistadors embarked on a turnover-fueled 19-2 run for a 22-10 lead.
"For the first quarter we were aggressive, and then the other team picked up their intensity," said Turlock coach Doug Cornfoot. "Our reaction to that was to back down a little.
"There's no reason why Turlock can't beat a team like this if we play four quarters the way we played the first. We started three juniors and two sophomores, so hopefully they'll learn we can compete."
Kenny Frasier led the Bulldogs with 13 points, while Julian Richardson led four Conquistadors in double figures with 15 points.
OTHER GAMES Junior guard Murshid Randle scored 25 points, and Central (Fresno) erupted for 32 points in the fourth quarter to pull away to an 88-76 victory over Chavez. Junior wing Darren Gentry led the Titans with 22 points
The inside-outside duo of junior guard Clifford Lyles (22 points) and senior forward David Straughter (20 points) allowed Burbank (Sacramento) to pull away to a 73-61 victory over tourney newcomer Foothill of Palo Cedro
Defending tourney and Division 3 state champion Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills) rolled to a 49-12 halftime lead before cruising to a 77-22 victory over Clovis East. Bear Henderson, a 6-5 junior, had 18 for Alemany, while 6-7 sophomore Bennie Boatwright added 16
University (San Francisco) posted the eye-opening effort of the first round, crushing Centennial (Compton) 69-34. Harold Getz had 16 points, David Medoff had 14 and Jack Gale 12 for University, while Kenderous Rosette led Centennial with 13 Horizon of San Diego met Sylmar in the late game.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2150.