Neither game went in the win column, but both were hard fought, as the Escalon varsity basketball boys started the Trans-Valley League campaign this past week.
They opened up by hosting Riverbank on Wednesday, Jan. 3.
“We lost 52-45,” said head coach Martin Louro. “I had been pulling my hair out trying to get them to play hard and play together and it’s like when league started, they flipped a switch and they did that, they played well.”
A low-scoring opening quarter saw Riverbank leading 12-7 and Escalon won the second quarter, 15-13, to trail by just three points at the break, 25-22. The Bruins were a few points better, 18-14, in the third quarter but Escalon pulled even at 45-45 with a minute, 20 seconds to go in the game.
“We had the ball but we missed a shot, they went down and hit a three,” Louro said of Riverbank taking the lead for good, 48-45. Escalon would be held off the scoreboard the rest of the way while the Bruins banked a few more shots to get the seven-point victory.
“Riverbank is a solid team, they are 2-0, they went to Ripon Christian on Friday night and beat RC,” said Louro.
The game was a tight defensive battle, neither team allowing much of a run by their opponent.
“We played great defense, which we hadn’t been doing,” Louro said of seeing improvement in the team. “It was a pretty solid effort all the way through.”
The game was entertaining for fans and wasn’t settled until the final minute.
“Riverbank plays great defense also and it was just a good game,” noted Louro.
Estephan Salcedo poured in 15 points on the night while Sahil Prasad was also in double figures with 10 points. Max Nicholas added nine.
Friday, the boys traveled to Ripon and faced off with the TVL favorites, the Indians coming away with a 60-46 win.
“They are the heavy favorites to win league,” Louro said. “But we punched them in the mouth, when they were in man they couldn’t defend against us; we forced them to change their defense.”
Escalon had an 18-16 lead after a fast paced first quarter, the Indians then switched to zone defense, giving the Cougars trouble in the second quarter. Ripon outscored Escalon 17-6 during that period to go up, 33-24.
A 12-9 run by Escalon got them a little closer after three, 42-36, but Ripon sealed the victory with an 18-10 scoring edge over the final eight minutes.
“We made them work for everything,” said Louro. “In that second quarter when they went to zone, we lost our heads a little bit like we had in the preseason.”
The Cougars will need to make adjustments to the defense better, said the coach, but again he was pleased with the effort he saw on the court.
“We won the first and third quarters, they won the second and fourth,” he pointed out. “The final margin of victory was 14 points but the game was much closer than that.”
Leading the way was Prasad, scoring 21 points for the Cougars, hitting five three-pointers. Salcedo had 14 points. Steven Grossi chipped in with six.
“We just needed a few baskets from a few other kids and we didn’t get that,” Louro said. “But the game was single digits until late.”
Escalon was scheduled to host Ripon Christian on Tuesday, Jan. 9 after The Times went to press. They will be back for another game on the home court Friday, Jan. 12 hosting Hughson in a 7:30 pm. contest.
“Hopefully we get one Tuesday and roll that into a good week,” Louro said. “All I can ask is for them to leave it all out there on the court and these first two games, they did that. I’m confident that if they keep this type of effort up, they will be rewarded.”