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Varsity Bruins Lose Heartbreaker To Ripon
A 35-32 lead over Trans-Valley League stalwart, Ripon, after three quarters of play seemed too good to be true for Riverbank High's varsity boys basketball team on Friday in Indian territory.

It was true, but it didn't last.

The host Indians rallied for a dominant 16-8 final period run, and edged Riverbank by a 48-43 final score.

"Unfortunately we gave them a lot of second and third-chance points after we couldn't get a defensive rebound," Riverbank coach Jeff Jennings said. "It was kind of uncharacteristic of us, and I thought we had played well for the most part."

Rolaun Dunham led Riverbank with 13 points in the loss, while a surging Ivan Manriquez added 10. Antony Navarette scored six while Zack Gonzales chipped in five.

Alex Reynaga (four), Manuel Jimenez (three) and Robert Martinez (three) also scored.

Riverbank (13-4 overall) is in dire need of wins to finish TVL play after a 2-3 start to the first half of conference action. They returned leading scorer/rebounder Zack Gonzales to the lineup against Ripon, but couldn't find the successful rhythm they had with him earlier in the season.

The Bruins play TVL leader Modesto Christian Friday, and will likely need to beat the two other teams that topped them in the first half (Escalon and Ripon) to garner a quality seed from the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section power ratings.

The ratings will take a slight nod from the Bruins spectacular preseason against tough opponents, but Riverbank needs a strong league record to multiply on a sub-par rating of just 4.6 (released Monday on the section website). Leagues like the Mother Lode League (4.8), the Western Athletic Conference (5.0), the Golden Empire League (5.2) and the Pioneer Valley League (6.3) all sport higher league strengths, and could send schools with lower enrollment to compete in the Division IV bracket.

Jennings said his goal is to host a playoff game this season, which might only be possible if Riverbank can lose just one more game in conference action and finish top-8 in the ratings.

"I think a .500 record in league might get us in, but we want to host that first round game," Jennings said. "We will have Zack back for his first game against Escalon and Ripon has to play at our place, so I really feel like it's possible."

The Bruins played Hughson on Tuesday, though results were not available at press time. The pivotal rematch with Escalon is on the schedule for Tuesday, Feb. 1 on the road at EHS.