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Cougar Boys Keep Up Successful, Hectic Pace On Hardwood
D Owens
Escalon’s DeSean Owens dribbles the ball up the court, as the Central Valley defender comes in during Friday night action at home; Owens was among the team’s leading scorers in a tough loss. Marg Jackson/The Times

Three wins and a loss – with the loss coming by a single point – made for a hectic yet ultimately successful week for Escalon’s varsity basketball boys.

“It’s not often you play four games in one week, unless you’re in a tournament,” said head coach Nate Bartelink. “It was nice to have three home games. We’re still trying to get everyone on the same page with our recent addition of four football players. We’ve still only had three practices with all 15 players.”

The varsity started the week with their one road game, taking a 77-52 win at Davis on Monday, Dec. 13.

“We won each of the four quarters and gradually extended the lead throughout the game,” explained Bartelink. “It was nice to get everyone at least a little bit of playing time. Good scoring balance with four guys in double digits.”

Russell Weinbrecht paced the effort with 22 points and 13 rebounds, with five three-pointers. Sophomore Ben Fletcher had his best game at the varsity level, Bartelink added, putting in 15 points. Zack Valencia had 12 points and eight rebounds, DeSean Owens chipped in with 10 points and Tyler Medina had his first taste of varsity action, scoring six points in the fourth quarter.

At home Tuesday, it was a 66-50 win over Bret Harte. The team started slowly, losing the first quarter to the Bullfrogs, 20-12.

“We had a great third quarter; played with the necessary intensity on defense and we forced some turnovers which fueled our offense,” said the coach. “Credit to Ben Fletcher and DeSean Owens for initiating that great defense and everyone else kind of followed suit. DeSean had 18 points, including four threes; all in the third quarter to spark us.”

Weinbrecht put in 11 points, and pulled down eight rebounds; Logan Anderson had 10 points and Jack Anderson put in nine.

Back on the home court Thursday, Dec. 16 the varsity took a 65-58 victory over Tokay, the sixth in a row for the Cougars.

“It’s nice to be winning games, while in my opinion, we haven’t played a complete game with four good quarters yet,” Bartelink noted. “Russell Weinbrecht sat this game out after spraining his ankle in Tuesday’s game against Bret Harte. It was good to see the team have some success without our three-year varsity starter, leading scorer, leading rebounder and guy that can create his own shot at any time.”

Standouts were Jack Anderson with 20 points, including four three-pointers, while Logan Anderson had a varsity career high 18 points, also adding eight boards. Owens notched 11 points, including three three-pointers; Zack Valencia had six points and six rebounds, while Cam Ruiz was solid for the varsity with five points, steady play and good defense.

Friday, the varsity squad closed out the busy week with a tough one-point loss to Central Valley, falling 52-21.

“We went into this game still holding out Russell with his ankle injury and Donovan Rozevink also sat out with a lingering football ankle injury,” Bartelink said. “Without them, we were without two of our top three rebounders, not to mention the other things they bring to our team. It turns out that was a major factor in our inability to defensive rebound.”

Bartelink said the varsity squad played pretty well for three quarters, and – with a three-point bucket at the buzzer by Jack Anderson – took a 37-31 lead into the final frame.

It was in the fourth quarter, said Bartelink, that the team “self-destructed and did everything we could to give Central Valley the game.”

It was perhaps the toughest quarter for the team this season.

“Going through the fourth quarter was pretty gut wrenching. We allowed them to get 14 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, which is completely unacceptable,” Bartelink said. “We also had eight turnovers during the fourth quarter, that along with giving them the offensive rebounds, we gave Central Valley almost double the offensive possessions that we had. On top of those things, we uncharacteristically missed 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, which equate to turnovers.”

Even with all that, the coach said, the squad still had opportunities to win but just couldn’t get it done.

“With how we played in the fourth quarter, we didn’t deserve to win, but I hoped to escape with a victory. Without Russ in there, Central Valley keyed on our next two best scorers in Jack and DeSean; they had to work extremely hard for everything they got offensively.”

Bartelink added that the varsity remains a young team, with just a couple of players returning with significant varsity minutes.

“Our youth and inexperience definitely showed on Friday night and hopefully we can learn from the mistakes made in that difficult fourth quarter, and we’ll be better in similar situations in the future,” said Bartelink.

The team ended the week with a 7-3 mark and were ranked as the number four seed in Division 4 prior to Thursday’s game.

“I told the players that is something to feel positive about, but it’s not about our ranking in mid-December; it’s about where we are ranked in mid-February,” noted Bartelink.

For the game, Jack Anderson and DeSean Owens were both in double figures.

“Jack managed to score 13 points while Central Valley completely denied him the entire game, knowing we were without a major weapon in Russ,” Bartelink said. “Central Valley also made it tough on DeSean offensively, but he was still able to contribute 12 points and five rebounds.”

Logan Anderson had 11 points and five rebounds; Ben Fletcher had eight points; Julian Borrego added six points, on two three-pointers.



The JV Cougars did not have a game against Davis; as their opponent was quarantined. They started out their week with a loss to Bret Harte but then grabbed back-to-back wins, topping Tokay and Central Valley.

They improved to a 5-4 overall record.

“We lost to Bret Harte by three, Thursday we beat Tokay by four and Friday we beat Central Valley,” said JV head coach Dave Anderson. “Ethan Garza led us in scoring each night along with Sam Jimenez. Ryan Lewis was great defensively all week along with Jagger Scott.”



Compiling a 3-1 record for the week, the youngest Cougars topped Davis, Bret Harte and Central Valley while falling to Tokay.

“Monday we went to Davis and won big, 69-43,” said first year head coach Steve Largent. “Slow start but we took off in the second half and everyone contributed minutes.”

Tuesday, it was a home game, hosting Bret Harte.

“We survived a Bullfrog barrage and held on to win 53-52,” Largent said of the thrilling overtime contest. “Daniel Gonzalez had a smooth 16 points followed by Preston Berhorst with 13.”

With a chance to practice on Wednesday, the boys were back in action Thursday but found the going rough.

“We ran into a buzz saw against Tokay and lost by 50,” noted Largent. “They were the real deal.”

Friday, wrapping up the busy week, the frosh boys had a good bounce back game, outdueling Central Valley in a tight defensive game, 33-31.

Ryan Murphy paced the offense with 15 points and the team also got “big time efforts” on the boards from both Ian Burke and Nathan Belletto, Largent added.


This week the Cougar teams will play at Johansen on Thursday, Dec. 23 and next week is tournament play, Tuesday through Thursday will be the Cougar Christmas Classic at home for the freshman and JV squads while the varsity heads to the Livingston Tournament on the same days, Dec. 28 through Dec. 30.

J Anderson
Cougar Jack Anderson pulls up, looking for a teammate to pass the ball to as he is closely guarded by a Central Valley opponent. The visiting Hawks used a strong fourth quarter to surge past the Cougars, taking a 52-21 win. Marg Jackson/The Times