Playoff action will start on the road for Escalon’s varsity Cougar hoopsters, the No. 11 seed boys scheduled to travel to take on No. 6 seed Venture Academy of Stockton on Friday night, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.
The game is an opening round contest in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs.
Meanwhile, it was a final regular season week sweep for the Escalon basketball boys, with varsity, JV and freshmen all winning both contests they played.
They were on the road for the final two games, at Livingston on Feb. 7; at Hilmar on Feb. 9.
The varsity took a 70-64 win against the Wolves in Livingston, leading 38-26 at the half and then holding off a late charge by the home team.
“This was a game that was postponed from earlier in the season due to Livingston being on COVID quarantine. We lost to them four days earlier at home so we knew we were in for a challenge; the winner of Monday’s game would most likely be the TVL three-seed in the playoffs,” explained head coach Nate Bartelink. “We came out and played well in the first quarter. Joey Fross was very aggressive and scored 10 points in that first quarter. We were able to get in the bonus early in the second quarter which helped us score efficiently.”
Russell Weinbrecht was 6-for-8 from the line during the second quarter while Jack Anderson also hit two three-pointers during that quarter.
“I was pleased with how we played during the second quarter considering that Joey Fross sat out the entire quarter due to foul trouble,” Bartelink noted.
In the third quarter, helping make a difference at the free throw line once again was Weinbrecht, sinking seven of seven shots in that frame from the charity stripe.
“We had a 16-point lead starting the fourth quarter, but then things fell apart. Livingston started playing desperate and we did not handle their pressure well at all,” Bartelink pointed out. “We weren’t able to handle the ball very well, we made poor choices with our passes and we stopped defending. Our 16-point lead shrunk to one point very late in the fourth quarter, but we were able to make enough free throws to pull away.”
The varsity squad went 23-for-35 from the line for the game, the coach noting that though the percentage wasn’t great, he was happy to see the team get to the free throw line that many times.
“I’ll never apologize for a TVL road win. I just don’t like how we finished,” said Bartelink. “Russell was amazing with a monstrous double-double. I’ve never coached anyone that has come close to a 20-20 game. I definitely get the sense that he is laying it all out there and giving it everything he has, as his awesome high school career is nearing its end. None of was want to see it end.”
Weinbrecht had 25 points, 20 rebounds, four assists and went 15-for-17 from the line.
Jack Anderson added 16 points, including a trio of three-pointers; Fross had 11 points despite the foul trouble and Sean Owens had nine points.
Wednesday, Feb. 9 the varsity boys were back on the road and took a 78-51 win at Hilmar. They opened up a 35-27 lead at the half and were up by just a 52-43 margin after three quarters before a 26-8 run in the fourth sealed the victory.
“Our defense wasn’t at the level that I wanted the first three quarters. We couldn’t get much separation from Hilmar as the lead consistently sat at six to 12 points. We were able to score fairly easily; we just couldn’t get stops,” Bartelink said.
Picking up where he left off at Livingston, Weinbrecht was hot in the first quarter with a trio of three-pointers and he had consistent production throughout the game.
“We had a great fourth quarter and were able to put the game away. Russ and Jack showed a lot of leadership with some hustle plays where they got on the floor, which directly led to something good for us,” added the coach. “It was nice to end our regular season schedule with a win and having everyone on the team play and contribute. We had 10 of our 12 players in uniform score.”
Weinbrecht had another double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, also adding five steals, and three blocks. Jack Anderson had 20 points, including three three-pointers; Owens had 12 points; Zack Valencia chipped in with five points and 10 rebounds; Logan Anderson had six points and five rebounds.
“We finished the regular season with an overall record of 19-9, 8-4 in the TVL for third place,” Bartelink said.
Ripon Christian took the Trans-Valley League title at 11-1 and Ripon finished second at 10-2.
“While we did not meet our pretty high pre-season expectations, when you sit back and reflect, the 19 wins is the most wins the varsity team has had since 2005. There are a few games we’d like to have back and we had hoped we would have a little more success in league play, but I’m still very proud of the team,” said Bartelink. “We battled some adversity at different points during the season and were still able to do some good things.”
The varsity team went to the playoffs in 2020 and there were no playoffs last year due to COVID so the 2022 qualification marks their second straight year in the postseason.
“We feel like we have the talent to compete with anyone in our section. We just need to put together a complete game on both ends of the floor at the right time,” Bartelink said.
Brackets for the D4 playoffs were released Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 15.
“We’ll spend the week preparing for Friday’s game,” he added. “We are excited for the opportunity in front of us.”
The JV boys started the week off strong with a decisive win at Livingston, 67-48, and also ended their season on a winning note by taking down the Hilmar Yellowjackets on Feb. 9. They finished with a 9-3 mark in league play and went 19-8 overall with head coach Dave Anderson leading the team.
For the freshmen, with first year head coach Steve Largent leading the team, they also put a pair of wins on the books in the final week to improve to 8-4 in league, 19-9 overall.
“We got a well-earned win, returning the favor after losing to Livingston just a few days prior at home,” Largent said of taking the Feb. 7 road game. “We outscored the Wolves 14-4 in the fourth and came away with a three-point win.”
Ryan Murphy paced the team offensively with 22 points on the night.
“We preached the game had to be won on defense and the kids really bought in and worked their butts off,” Largent added.
Wednesday, they enjoyed ending the season on a winning note in Hilmar.
“Guys like Alex Jones, Jacob Augusto, Preston Berhorst and Dominic Arauza really brought the defensive intensity and we came away winners 42-21,” said Largent.
The 8-4 record in TVL saw the freshmen finish in third place.
“It was a successful season for the entire program, with each team winning 19 games and having some success in the TVL. The players in the program continue to work hard and have success,” summarized varsity head coach Bartelink. “We have some talent at the freshmen and JV levels, along with a good junior class, which excites me for the future. Our foundation is strong and we will continue to strive for more. I’d like to thank everyone that has supported our program this season. I’d also like to thank the entire coaching staff for all of their time and effort.”