RIPON — The Centers for Disease Control spend millions tracking the spread of flu across the country.
They could save a lot just by monitoring high school basketball games.
In a scene that is certain to play out across California in the next 10 days, two boys' basketball teams battled the flu and each other Tuesday night, with Riverbank High staying healthy in the Trans-Valley League race by beating Ripon 61-52.
"I think three or four of the guys are sick and everyone saw my boy getting sick at halftime," said Riverbank guard Kenny Veliz. "But he still came out and played."
Veliz was referring to junior guard Rolaun Dunham, who led all scorers with 15 points and literally left everything he had on the court, including most of his dinner.
"Rolaun is the kind of kid who won't tell you when anything's wrong," said Riverbank coach Jeff Jennings, whose team improved to 16-1 overall and 4-0 in the TVL.
"He was a little lethargic and his shot was a little flat, so I was talking to the coaches at halftime and we were wondering whether he was sick. We got our answer. I wish he would have told us instead of trying to hold it in."
Ripon (6-11, 2-1) also was battling the symptoms. Starting point guard Cole Herrin was out of school Monday and half of Tuesday with the flu, and at least one reserve was not in uniform for the same reason.
Herrin still had 11 points as the Indians were led by the 14 points of junior Derek Hickman.
"Cole's sick and Bradley Clark is not even here, but everybody is either in the middle of getting better or just beyond it," said Indians' coach Rod Wright.
The play may have been affected by the illness, but not the Bruins' shooting.
Riverbank's aggressive man-to-man defense and Ripon's swarming zone combined to force 40 turnovers (the Bruins committed 23) but Riverbank won the game by shooting over that zone.
"We shot the ball exceptionally well today," said Veliz, who paced his team with four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. "They were in a zone, so that forced us to shoot from the outside; we took those shots and they were going in. As long as they keep going in, why stop?"
The Bruins connected on six of their first seven 3-point attempts of the second quarter, with Markus Benson (14 points) hitting three and Veliz two, allowing Riverbank to post 24 points in the quarter and take a 37-29 halftime lead.
Despite the marksmanship, Ripon, which only briefly climbed within six points after that, wasn't about to come out of the zone.
"We're too slow to come out of the zone," Wright said. "We know Riverbank was going to hit seven or eight 3-pointers, since they do every game. They shot a little better than that tonight."
Wright was correct, since it was the second straight game in which the Bruins hit 11 shots from behind the arc.
"Knock on wood because we're hitting shots pretty consistently and that's going to be the key for us going forward," Jennings said. "To shoot like this on the road is the question."
TVL rival Modesto Christian will be moving up to Division 3 once the postseason begins, so the Crusaders won't be lurking in the Bruins' section bracket.
But a big man certainly will be, somewhere along the line, hoping to have a field day against this very small Bruins' team.
"Our starting center (Luis Solario) is out with a broken nose, but then he's only 5-11," Jennings said. "We don't grow them very big in Riverbank."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150. Find his blog at thehive.modbee.com/thurman.