SALIDA — On the verge of writing a new page in California high school basketball history, Modesto Christian's girls basketball team ran into a team trying to pen its own story.
Call it the Gospel According to Ruth.
Ripon High senior Ruth Waters poured in 27 points and added eight rebounds and six assists as the Indians did something considered all but impossible for the last 12 years with a 61-58 Trans-Valley League victory over the Crusaders.
"This means the world," said Waters, a 5-foot-9 guard. "It's been our whole mentality this season to gain at least a co-championship in the TVL and to go far in the playoffs. This is the perfect way to do that, on their floor."
The Indians (20-4 overall and 9-1 in the TVL) need to get past Hilmar and Orestimba in their last two games to claim at least a share of the league title with the Crusaders.
Modesto Christian (18-8, 9-1) isn't used to sharing such honors. Tuesday's league loss was only the second in the 12 years Robb Spencer has been at the helm of the program. The only other was a 47-44 loss at Orestimba on Feb. 17, 2005.
The Crusaders entered the game having won 98 straight league games. A win against the Indians followed Thursday by a win at Riverbank would have been historic.
With the MC boys taking a 113-game league win streak into tonight's contest at Ripon, the school was two days away from becoming the first in California history to have both boys' and girls' basketball teams with concurrent league win streaks of 100 or more games.
"I told this team at the beginning of the year that it reminded me of the team that lost to Orestimba," Spencer said. "That team went on to lose in the second round of the playoffs. They're great kids but they don't have that strong mentality and as a team we don't have the dominant person.
"Gotta learn from it fast because playoffs are around the corner. If we want to mope about it, then we'll be making a quick exit."
Ripon, meanwhile, is thinking in the opposite direction. With MC in its second year as a Division 3 team in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, the Indians, with this victory, will be considered one of the favorites to go a long way in Division 4.
"We've been talking all year about playing our best basketball going into the playoffs," said eighth-year Ripon coach George Contente. "And we talked before the game about the momentum we could gain from winning tonight. We're not done yet."
They appeared close to being run out of the MC gym when the Crusaders opened the game on a 10-2 run behind the first of five 3-pointers hit by sophomore guard Ashley Lucas.
But Waters who plays on a summer AAU team coached by Spencer took over, scoring 12 points and handing out two assists as Ripon rolled to an 18-17 lead after one quarter.
The Indians went on to build leads as large as 10 points in the third quarter before taking a 47-41 lead into the final eight minutes.
With Modesto Christian carrying only seven players on its varsity roster, the much deeper Indians should have had the advantage in the fourth quarter, but Lucas scored eight points as MC finally caught Ripon at 54-54 with 3:50 remaining.
As the Indians' defense tightened on Lucas, Tia Sidtikun (14 points) hit three free throws and Kelsey Alexander (12 points) got inside to give Ripon a 59-54 lead with 49 seconds left.
Moments later, the Indians walked off the court with their biggest regular-season victory in decades.
"I've played with all these girls and now I can wish them the best for the playoffs," Waters said. "They're one of the best teams out there. Now maybe they can go on another 100-game win streak."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek