GALT - A postgame chant of “We’re going to Arco!” emanated from the Ripon Christian locker room.
It was the Knights’ first misstep in about 10 minutes.
Arco lost the naming rights to the Sacramento Kings’ arena back in 2011, but that hardly matters since most high school kids still refer to the site of the Sac-Joaquin Section basketball championships by its former, longtime moniker.
And whether it’s Sleep Train Arena (the proper name) or the parking lot of an Arco filling station, No. 4 Ripon Christian’s girls will play for a Division V crown for the first time since 2003 after a come-from-behind, 52-46 victory over top-seeded Woodland Christian on Wednesday at Galt High School.
With 3 minutes, 57 seconds to play, the Knights fell behind 44-37 after a jumper by the Cardinals’ 6-foot senior forward Rebecca Williams (19 points). But that would be the last field goal the Cardinals would score, getting only a pair of harmless free throws with 36 ticks left, as RC closed the game on a 15-2 run.
“Defense is big with us,” said RC coach Ed Mulder, whose team will take on No. 3 Capital Christian, a 54-46 winner over No. 2 Argonaut, on Friday at 4 p.m. “If we can keep teams from scoring high numbers, we can play with people. We came out scared, but we kept fighting.”
The Knights’ Ellen Blankers hit a 15-footer along the baseline to make it a one-point game at 44-43.
“I kind of felt that shot really lifted our spirits up and made us want to play tough defense,” Blankers said. “As long as we play good defense, we’re all right.”
After forcing a miss on the defensive end, RC’s Elisabeth Regusci nailed her third three-pointer of the contest to give the Knights their first lead of the game at 46-44.
“In the fourth quarter, we started executing and playing as a team,” Regusci said. “I felt really confident, took my time and made the shot. I was happier when Jess (Jessica Orozsco) made hers.”
Twenty seconds after Regusci’s three-pointer, Orozsco stepped up from the same spot on the floor – the right elbow extended – and scored, stretching the lead to five and all but finished Woodland Christian.
“It all happened so quickly,” Orozsco said. “I just kept my fingers crossed, and it felt right.”
After an abysmal start to the game in which they came away without points on 19 of their first 20 possessions, the Knights fell behind by double digits and spent the next 20 minutes of game time trying to dig out of that hole.
The Knights (16-7) got to within one, 15-14, on a three-pointer by Regusci late in the second quarter, but backslid and trailed 23-16 at the break. Ripon Christian would tie the score at 32-32 with 48 seconds to play in the third quarter, but the Cardinals (25-4) closed the stanza on a 5-0 run.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” said senior Carly Tillema, who led the Knights with 12 points. “But we know that we’ve dug ourselves out before. We know we’re capable of coming out of that. We had that in the back of our minds.”