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Resurgent Basketball Teams Bode Well For EHS Future
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Escalon senior Analise Silveira, at left, and junior Macie Vickers, 5, confront the Lady Bruin offense in the fourth quarter of semifinal action in the varsity girls Sac-Joaquin Section D4 basketball playoffs on Tuesday, Feb. 21 in Riverbank. The Lady Cougars fell in the road game to end their Section run, just short of the finals. Times Photo By Ric McGinnis

The varsity girls basketball team made it to the semifinals of the Section playoffs.

The varsity boys had a home game and their highest seed in the Section tournament in years.

Both facts seem to bode well for the future of high school basketball for the Cougars.

On the boys side, varsity head coach Nate Bartelink pointed to a second place finish in Trans-Valley League play as one reason for optimism. The boys went 8-4 during the league season and ended with a final mark of 18-11. They earned the number seven seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs and got to host a home playoff game for the first time since the 2004-2005 season, when that team won a Section title.

Despite losing that opening round game on Feb. 15 to Orestimba, Bartelink said the program will have a lot of returning players; in fact, that playoff game starting line up featured one senior, two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman. A strong group of players will also make the move up from the JV squad to join the varsity next year.

For the girls, they were third in the TVL, with an 8-4 record and got the number 10 seed for the playoffs, having to go on the road. But they won their first two games – qualifying for the NorCals for the first time in school history  – before falling to Riverbank in the semifinal round. They did get a victory at home on Feb. 28 in the first round of the NorCal Division 5 competition.

Head coach Joseph Dalpogetti said the team loses a couple of key players in seniors Kelsey Webster and Analise Silveira, but also returns several with solid varsity experience and will see an influx of JV players to the line up next year that should add some depth.

Bartelink, who oversees the club basketball program, Escalon Elite, said a recent Sunday clinic put on through the club on Feb. 26 and open to boys and girls, was a success.

“The clinics were great; reached our limit of 30 participants in each session,” Bartelink explained of the morning and afternoon clinics. “Kids had a lot of enthusiasm and were working really hard. It’s encouraging to see that interest in basketball at those young ages in our community.”

He noted that some high school students stepped in to help out.

“It was also great to see four of our current EHS boys basketball players volunteering their time to instruct in small groups; Sammy Jimenez, Logan Huebner, Cameron Dalpogetti and Daniel Gonzalez,” he explained. “Also, a big thanks to EHS alum Sahil Prasad for helping out as well.”

Next up for the Escalon Elite Basketball Club will be tryouts, seeking players for the 2023 Spring AAU sixth through eighth grade boys team.

The tryouts are scheduled on Sunday, March 5 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the new gym on the Escalon High School campus.

Those planning to attend are asked to arrive 15 minutes early to register. If a player cannot attend the tryout session, a separate tryout can be arranged. For more information, contact Bartelink at: or 209-618-3818.

“I do feel that the recent success the EHS basketball programs are experiencing is helping attract more kids to the sport of basketball at a young age,” Bartelink said. “We are seeing a lot of the same kids at our clinics that are sitting in the stands at the home games. The interest is there. Now we need to foster that interest; need to continue to put in the work at these earlier ages to get these kids prepared to play at a high level when they get to high school.”

For now, he said the varsity players – boys and girls – that suited up for the Cougars this season can look back on what they accomplished and be proud of those achievements.

“It remains to be seen if the work we are putting in with the clinics and youth travel teams will bring more success at the high school level, but I’m confident this is the right path to get us to where I think we can get,” Bartelink summarized. “As a program, we’re optimistic about the immediate, as well as the not so distant future.”