Losses to Ripon Christian and Ripon opened up a busy week for Escalon’s varsity basketball boys. They closed it out with a win over Livingston.
They had three games total, with contests at home on Tuesday and Friday and the trip to Ripon in between on Thursday.
“Early in the week, we had a little bit of a hangover from that tough Riverbank loss the Friday before,” said head coach Nate Bartelink. “Ripon Christian had a size advantage and a couple of our guys were in foul trouble.”
Hosting the Knights in the Jan. 29 game, Escalon was down 21-14 after one and trailed 33-24 at the half. Then, said Bartelink, the Cougars still felt good about their chances in the contest, even with Brad DaDalt and Kam DeWeerd both in first half foul trouble.
Ripon Christian outscored the Cougars 34-22 over the final two periods for a 67-46 win.
“They remained undefeated,” Bartelink said of the Knights staying perfect in league play.
The coach also said the Knights had plenty of shooters, able to score from many areas of the court.
Brenden Holmes had 15 points on the night, with Kaidence Trejo putting in six points. Dylan Ruiz and Sam Fletcher added five points apiece.
“Thursday at Ripon, it did not get any easier and they just took it to us,” said Bartelink.
Playing zone defense early, the Cougars forced the Indians to shoot from the outside. That tactic, though, basically backfired.
“They hit six 3’s in the first quarter, we were down 27-14 after one and they ended up hitting a school record 14 3’s for the game,” Bartelink said.
It was a 48-28 lead for Ripon at the half and they continued to outscore Escalon in the second half, 18-10 in the third and 19-7 in the fourth, taking the game by an 85-45 final.
“They had six different guys that hit multiple 3’s,” added Bartelink. “It’s never fun to lose to Ripon.”
For Escalon, DeWeerd had 18 points, Holmes scored 13 and DaDalt added 11, the three of them accounting for 42 of Escalon’s 45 points on the night.
With little time to recover, the Cougars were back on the court the next night, coming home to host Livingston as they wrapped up a three-game week. For the team, said Bartelink, getting right back to work was the best thing for them, as they were able to quickly move on from the lopsided loss at Ripon.
“We had a great crowd, the band was there, we had some youth basketball kids wearing their jerseys in attendance,” Bartelink said.
And the team recovered, getting a satisfying, hard-fought win against a capable Livingston opponent.
Leading 18-14 after one, the Cougars were a couple of points better than the Wolves in the second, leading 34-28 at the half. Livingston had an 18-16 scoring edge in the third to trim the lead to 50-46 entering the final frame. But the Cougars had a 16-11 advantage over the final eight minutes, putting a 66-57 win in the books.
“We did a good job,” Bartelink said. “Our fourth quarter was real solid and we just made plays throughout the night.”
Leading the effort was DeWeerd, coming away with a huge double-double, 37 points and 14 rebounds.
“He had a quiet 37 points, if there is such a thing,” Bartelink said. “He hit six of seven two-point attempts, he was 5-for-8 in threes and was 10-for-10 at the free throw line, that gets you to 37.”
Holmes had 16 points and eight rebounds, Colton Panero added five points.
“We made great plays on both ends of the floor,” added Bartelink.
The varsity squad was scheduled to play at Hughson on Tuesday, Feb. 5 after The Times went to press and will host Hilmar on Friday, Feb. 8. That will be Senior Night for players and cheerleaders and is also Escalon’s Winter Homecoming.
Escalon enters the final week at 4-6 in Trans-Valley League play, 10-16 overall.
“We play two teams we got the last time around,” Bartelink said of Hughson and Hilmar. “We’d like to get back to .500, close out the season on a strong note.”
Varsity action is scheduled to tip off about 7:30 p.m. Friday.