JACKSON — Because of factors completely out of Ripon High's control, it was going to take an extraordinary effort for the girls basketball team to make a run in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
As it turned out, the Indians had the same chance as a snowball in a warm place.
The Indians didn't shoot well in Thursday's 47-40 quarterfinal loss at unbeaten Argonaut, which was their ultimate downfall, but that was only the last of the factors that conspired to end Ripon's season at 23-5.
The first came last weekend, when the Indians with a Division 4 power rating no lower than No. 4 were moved to the No. 5 spot to allow a champion from a weaker league to move up three spots.
It didn't matter to the selection committee that Ripon was No. 4 at the time it won at Modesto Christian, nor that the Indians had not lost since then.
But the shift from No. 4 to No. 5 in the Division 4 bracket guaranteed this second-round game would be played on the road.
The second strike against the Indians came on Tuesday, when snow in the Angels Camp area prevented Bret Harte from making the trip to Ripon.
It necessitated the move of that first-round game to Wednesday, which meant the Indians would have to play on back-to-back nights, eliminating the chance to practice while allowing the Argonaut coaches and players to scout Ripon in person.
The final factor came Thursday night on the court, where Argonaut went to the line 30 times, making 17. That's a big deal because the Indians went to the line four times, making three.
And that's how snowballs melt.
"We always can benefit from a practice that would allow us to get to know the other team better," said Ripon senior Ruth Waters, who scored a game-high 14 points in her high school finale.
"But when you get into the playoffs it's not so much about the other team but about how you play. Argonaut is a good team and always will be a good team, but so many things didn't go our way."
The Mustangs were whistled for 12 fouls to Ripon's 23, and no call was bigger than the one that went against Ripon late in the third quarter.
Waters hit three straight 3-point shots as the Indians erased a 28-19 deficit to tie the game 29-29. The Indians had all the momentum as Waters drove toward the basket after grabbing a long rebound.
She got to the basket and hit a layup, then on her way down bumped into an Argonaut player who had slid in front of Waters right under the goal.
The basket was erased as Waters was called for the charge. To compound the matter, it was her fourth foul, sending her to the bench until midway through the fourth quarter.
By the time Waters reentered, Argonaut had regained control, despite making only five field goals in the final 13 minutes, 38 seconds. The rest of the Mustangs' offense came at the line.
"No doubt that Ruth's foul was the turning point of the game," said Ripon coach George Contente. "But they were in the double bonus for most of the second half and we didn't shoot free throws in the second half until 12 seconds were left. Is that the home court? I don't know."
Juniors Cara Tororich and Kobie Fettis scored 10 points apiece for Argonaut, which advanced to Wednesday's semifinal round at Tokay and qualified for a spot in the NorCal regional playoffs.
For Ripon, it's time to think about spring sports.
"Of course I'll always think that we could have won tonight and we should have won," Waters said.
"The tough thing is that after losses like this in the past I've always been able to think that it's OK because we'll be better next year. I can't think that anymore, but we had a great season."