Four games in four nights made for a busy schedule this past week for the varsity Cougar basketball boys.
They dropped three of four, but played some good stretches of basketball, just unable to overcome some height and talent challenges.
Getting the chance to play Modesto Christian unexpectedly, the Cougars went to Modesto on April 27 for the contest.
“We were outclassed but I credit the kids, they wanted to play, Modesto Christian is just too fast, big and strong,” said head coach Nate Bartelink. “It gave our kids an opportunity to stretch and see what’s out there.”
The varsity-only trip for the Cougars saw them lose a 92-42 decision. Russell Weinbrecht had 12 points; Brenden Holmes had 10 and Jack Anderson scored eight.
On Wednesday, it was a trip to Hughson to face off with a familiar rival, the Huskies.
“We tried to keep a few traditional games on the schedule,” said Bartelink, with the Cougars in the Valley Oak League for this season as opposed to the Trans-Valley League.
The Cougars topped Hughson in a closely contested battle, 41-38.
“Russell fouled out mid-third quarter and that made it challenging for us,” Bartelink said. “But other guys stepped up.”
Escalon had a 24-17 lead at the half, hanging on for the three-point win. Holmes had 24 points on the night and had 11 of the team’s 14 fourth quarter points.
“He carried the load, especially in that fourth quarter,” agreed Bartelink.
Ty Harris had eight points, Dillon Watson four.
“Blake Matos came on and played some good minutes filling in for Russell,” said Bartelink.
Thursday and Friday, it was the home and away series with Ripon Christian, hosting the Knights on Thursday, April 29.
The final was a hard fought 58-52 loss in an overtime game. Escalon had a 15-13 lead after one, and the Cougars were up 28-19 at the half. But they were outscored 24-15 over the final two quarters and 15-9 in the OT to take the loss.
“We had an okay lead but we lost Ty Harris in the third on a technical and he guards their best player,” Bartelink said. “Ripon Christian is coming off a D6 NorCal championship; they’re tough.”
The coach said his team was “pretty disappointed” after the game, feeling that they let the contest slip away and it was one they could have won.
Holmes had 25 points, Weinbrecht added 14 and Harris had four, along with providing solid defense until being ejected from the game.
At Ripon Christian on Friday night, playing their fourth game in as many nights, it was a 73-63 loss.
Ripon Christian was up 40-29 at the half, Escalon cut the lead to nine points with a rally in the fourth, but couldn’t make up the full deficit.
“Russell had a career high 36 points including five 3’s,” Bartelink said of Weinbrecht. “Brenden had 21 points, 15 of them in the first half.”
Between the two, they scored 57 of the team’s 63 points.
Matt Silva provided some good minutes off the bench and the coach said though the team is 1-5, they are playing strong opponents and they are being tested, learning as they go.
Against Hughson, it was a 44-43 loss for the JV boys and the difference was at the foul line. The JV Cougars missed 17 free throws on the night, including 11 in the fourth quarter that could have provided the margin of victory.
“They battled hard and we are playing three freshmen for extended minutes,” said Bartelink.
Cam Ruiz and Logan Anderson had 10 points each, Donovan Rozevink added eight.
Home against Ripon Christian on Thursday, it was a 62-32 loss.
“We had a lot of turnovers,” said the coach. “RC played a lot of zone that game and we haven’t worked on that a whole lot.”
Zack Valencia had 13 points with six each from Ethan Garza and Ben Fletcher.
Friday on the road, it was a closer contest but another loss for the young Cougars, defeated by RC in a 54-42 final.
Rozevink had 13, Fletcher eight, with Anderson and Garza adding six points each.
This week, league play will see the Cougar squads at Sierra High School in Manteca on Thursday, then hosting the Timberwolves on Friday. All three levels, freshmen, JV and varsity, are scheduled to play.