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Cougar Varsity Boys Claim Third Place
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Finishing in third place at the holiday Orestimba Tournament, Escalon's varsity Cougar boys won two games and lost one over the three-day event.

"It was a very successful tournament for us, I felt," said coach Mike Backovich. "We lost on a buzzer beater to Patterson, that was a very tough loss for us but we came back strong against Hilmar."

The varsity squad started out the tournament on Monday, Dec. 20 with a win over Firebaugh in the opening round.

"We played very well, it was a very good game, a good team effort," said Backovich.

Marc Backovich paced the squad with 17 points on the night, Steve Gentry was also in double figures with 11.

Coming back against Trans-Valley League rival Patterson on Tuesday, the Cougars appeared poised to take the win.

But the Tigers hit a 3-point shot with just four seconds remaining in the game to take the victory away.

"We led almost the entire way, but we didn't match up well with them, they were much taller," Backovich said.

The final was Patterson 59, Escalon 56. Grant Goedhart was the team leader for Escalon with 20 points, Gentry added 16.

"They did some nice things against us and made a shot at the end that beat us," Backovich noted of the Tigers. "They are a very good team, but we'll see them again when it counts."

The loss put the Cougars into the consolation game for third place and they gathered themselves for a solid effort against the Hilmar Yellowjackets, another TVL rival.

"A good friend once told me that you can always tell the personality of your team on how they come back after a loss," Backovich said. "Our guys just came back and played hard vs. Hilmar."

Three Cougars were in double figures against Hilmar in taking a decisive 71-43 victory, paced by Brian Beeman with 12 points. Backovich added 11 and Gentry chipped in with 10 points.

Marc Backovich was selected to the All Tournament Team as the Cougars claimed the consolation championship.

Coach Backovich said he was pleased with the performance of the squad over the three-day tournament, especially rebounding with a solid effort after the last-second loss. The team is getting in plenty of tournament play in the preseason and will be on the road at Calaveras for a Tuesday, Jan. 4 game, then host Linden on Saturday, Jan. 8 in the preseason finale.

This week, they are taking part in the Oakdale Tournament, with action continuing Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 29 and 30.

"This is a great tournament for us, a lot of Division I schools, we're playing with the big boys," said Backovich.