The top-seeded Ripon High School boys’ basketball team shook off a sluggish start tonight (Friday) to run away from No. 8 Lomira 85-53 at home and punch its ticket to the regional championship game.
It led the visiting Lions just 8-7 a couple minutes into the game, before going on a 28-5 run to take control of the game and it never looked back.
The Tigers now will host No. 5-seeded Berlin, which upset No. 4-seed Columbus 74-69 on the road, Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets will go on sale at 6 p.m.
“We just didn’t take care of the basketball from the get-go, and then we struggled a little bit guarding some actions that we knew they were going to run,” Ripon head coach Dean Vander Plas said. “We settled in and started to get the ball inside and found some open looks for Eddie [Muench] and then got rolling. The difference is just playing with great discipline on the defensive end, not giving up anything easy and let that fuel transition, and then playing fast and not playing sloppy.”
Helping the Tigers break out of the early slump against Lomira was Ben Vander Plas and Muench.
The two seniors combined for 37 of the team’s 52 first-half points as Muench poured in 20, which inclu-ded three 3-pointers, and Ben Vander Plas added 17.
“Those two, I think, are really difficult for Lomira to handle; just the size, athleticism and strength,” Dean Vander Plas said. “We needed to go there. You’ve got take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves and the kids did that.”
Both Muench and Ben Vander Plas played limited minutes in the second half with the game already in hand and finished with 28 and 21 points, respectively, on an efficient 16-of-20 shooting from the field.
While those two led the way for Ripon, Dean Vander Plas was impressed with the effort of his entire team — including several of his reserves.
“[Tyler Witkowski’s] team played really hard, so we had to match intensity level and I like that,” Dean Vander Plas said. “Obviously, we had the better of the two teams in the statistics, but his kids played so hard that we played hard … I like that our kids responded well and I liked that we went deep and got a lot of kids to play hard and well for us tonight.”
Despite the effort and lopsided win, there were areas the Ripon coach noted could be improved.
Among them was defending the 3-point shot as the Lions were 10 of 26 (38 percent) from long range. The performance came one game after Lomira made 13 3-pointers in a 62-58 win over Omro.
“They knocked some down,” Dean Vander Plas said. “Some of them were our hands were down and we didn’t close out well. We had a couple things that we missed in the transition, but they move the ball as well as anybody we’ve played. The ball never stops, so you’ve got to keep coming and if you miss anything, they’re going to get an open look and they hit those tonight on us.”
Offensively, the Tigers also shot a high percentage as they were 59 percent (36 of 61) from the field and 31 percent (5 of 16) behind the 3-point line.
In addition to Muench’s 28 points and Ben Vander Plas’ 21, Ripon received 11 points from Melvin Lee, four each from Marshall Morrin, Hunter Merrill and Cody Sandleback, and three apiece from Trey Auchtung, Hunter Auchtung and Cody Merrill. Tyler Pick and Austin Lopez each chipped in two points.
The Tigers now will turn their sights to Berlin, which they have defeated twice already this season and nine-straight times dating back to February 2013.
Despite their success against the Indians, Dean Vander Plas knows the game won’t be easy.
“They play with great intensity,” he said of the Indians, adding both teams know each other well. “They’ve got length and they can shoot it. You’ve got to come with your ‘A’ game defensively and you’ve got to take care of the backboards.”