GALT — Ripon Christian played two simultaneous games Wednesday night.
On defense, they played a real throwback style, holding down an explosive Capital Christian team like few teams have this season.
On offense, it was more like a throw-away effort, as the Knights never found any kind of offensive rhythm against a big, athletic team.
The result was a 41-31 decision that sent defending champion Capital Christian back to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 championship game.
"We haven't played a team like this all season, especially one this size," said Knights' senior guard Dan Vos. "That affected a lot of our shots."
Ripon Christian (23-5,) held 11 points below its previous season scoring low, will find out Sunday who and where it will play in Wednesday's first round of the NorCal tournament. Capital Christian (23-4) will battle Brookside-Central Catholic in Friday's final at Sleep Train Arena.
Had the Knights been told they would hold an explosive Cougars' team to 41 points, they would have liked their chances.
"We've been playing good defense all year and I didn't know if we could step up against these guys - and the kids did," said coach Ron Vander Molen. "I thought we would be outmatched significantly.
"Offensively we struggled, and that defense was like nothing we've faced all year. We tried to force each other in practice to play that style."
The style of the remarkably low-scoring game was set in the second quarter, when the Knights outscored Capital Christian 5-2, holding the Cougars scoreless for the final 7 minutes, 5 seconds of the half.
Ripon Christian trailed 17-11 after that bizarre eight minutes of offensive flailing, and had to figure it had a chance to win if only some shots would drop.
They never did.
Freshman Travis Vander Molen, the son of Gregori head coach Mike Vander Molen (and Ron Vander Molen's nephew,) hit two 3-pointers and led RC with 10 points, while Vos added nine.
The big man for Capital Christian was a big man indeed - 6-feet, 6-inch, 275 pound center Nifae Lealao. He hurt the Knights with 14 points, including six during the final six minutes of the third quarter as the Cougars used a 10-3 run to take a 29-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
With the shots not falling, there would be no rally for Ripon Christian.
"The season has been great," Ron Vander Molen said. "I don't think we've received the respect we deserve. This year's team has done everything last year's team did.
"We've been consistent for the last 4-5 years, but except for once haven't been able to get over this hump. I just wish we could have knocked down some shots tonight."
BROOKSIDE CHRISTIAN 69, CENTRAL CATHOLIC 54 How do you replace a 6-9 center who averages 18 points and 18 rebounds?
In Central Catholic's case, you don't replace John Fenton, who injured his ankle last Friday, but you hope other players step up to take his place.
Senior Jake Bland had 18 points and John Boddie added 10 as the Raiders got some inside scoring, but they had no answer for Brookside's guards.
Eric DeAnda scored 21 points and Nick Payne added 17 to lead the Knights (27-1) into Friday's section final against Capital Christian.
"Foul trouble hurt us, as did rebounding," said Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson, whose team dropped to 25-4. "We were just out of sync. Brookside is a good team and they played hard like we knew they would."
Central Catholic fell behind by double-digits in the first half, but battled back to take a 40-39 lead in the final three minutes of the third quarter. Brookside finished the quarter on a 7-1 run to take a 46-41 lead into the final quarter, then held the Raiders without a field goal in the last 2:13 to win going away.
"We have more games left," Wilson said. "So we have to get John healthy and get back to business."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek