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Cougars Top Riverbank To End Losing Streak
Coming off a three-game losing streak, Escalon's varsity basketball boys got a win Friday night on the road to keep their playoff hopes alive.

They had battled through a tough stretch that saw them lose to Ripon, then Modesto Christian and a Tuesday, Feb. 9 loss at Ripon Christian.

"I knew that was our toughest stretch," coach Martin Louro said of the three-game block. "This was our first three-game losing streak of the year."

The Cougars did get back on the winning track on Friday and are even at 4-4 in the Trans-Valley League, standing at 16-10 overall.

Tuesday, they lost by a 66-53 verdict at Ripon Christian.

"We didn't do a very good job of following our game plan," admitted Louro. "I don't know how we could come out timid, knowing it was such a big game, with playoff implications ... we did not play our game."

Ripon Christian had a 17-8 advantage after one quarter and outscored Escalon in three of the four quarters on the way to the win.

"I feel like it's a good match up for us," Louro added of the two teams. "Whoever dictates the tempo of the game will win."

Ripon Christian's two big men combined for 38 points, providing too difficult a tandem to stop.

"They shot the ball better," the coach added of RC. "We finally got the game at the pace we wanted for four or five minutes of the third and got the lead down to seven, but it was too little, too late."

Brandon Shaw had 14 points in the loss, followed by Tyler Schuurman with 12 and Spencer Franceschetti with 10 points.

Louro and the squad gathered for a team meeting after school on Wednesday and then had a full program practice, with the freshman, JV and varsity squads all practicing together.

"We had a relaxing day at practice," Louro said, noting that the varsity players may have been tightening up under the pressure of battling for a playoff spot. The Cougars haven't made the postseason for the past few years but have a chance to get back there now.

Changing things up seemed to help, as the varsity boys fought off a determined Riverbank team and took a 59-54 win away from the Bruins on their Homecoming night on Feb.12.

"Friday night was a huge game, we won and we're battling for a playoff spot," Louro said. "We're right there, knocking on the door and it was important for us to get back on track."

Riverbank had an early 9-8 lead, but Escalon put in 19 points in the second quarter to Riverbank's 13 to lead 27-22 at the half. The teams matched point for point over the final two quarters, Escalon taking the league win.

"In the third quarter we had an opportunity to put the pedal down, we got up by 10 and if we had been more disciplined on the offensive end, we had a chance to bury them," Louro explained. "But they hit a couple of 3' and that cut it back to four."

Up 42-38 entering the final frame, it took the entire team to pull off the win.

"The fourth quarter was an absolute dogfight," agreed Louro. "It was a testament to our guys that when they'd (Riverbank) get a shot, we'd match them."

Leaders were Gino Franceschetti with 16 points, Schuurman with 11 and Shaw with nine. Still in the running for the postseason with two games to go, the Cougars were slated to host Hughson on Tuesday, Feb. 16 after The Times went to press. They are home to face off with Ripon in the season finale, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m.

With it being Senior Night and the game possibly deciding the Cougars' playoff fate, Louro said he and the team are looking forward to the challenge.

"You can't ask for more," he said.