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Court Time Sees Cougar Boys Busy In Trio Of Contests
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Sophomore Samuel ‘Sammy’ Jimenez feels the defensive pressure and looks to dish the ball off to a teammate in earlier season action on the home court. The varsity boys won an overtime game and dropped two contests this past week. Marg Jackson/The Times

An overtime win was sandwiched in between two losses for the Escalon varsity basketball boys this past week. The Cougars are now 6-3 for their preseason campaign, with a handful of games scheduled during the holiday break.

The varsity squad fell to Beyer and Central Valley but edged our Liberty Ranch.

Monday, Dec. 12 at Beyer, the final was 57-54 in favor of the home team, as the Patriots used a strong fourth quarter to take the contest.

“Beyer has been one of the better Division 3 teams in our area over the last decade. Our guys came out and played well for three quarters. Our defense was strong and we were playing clean on the offensive end,” explained head coach Nate Bartelink. “We ended the third quarter leading 42-36, playing really well on the road, against a good opponent. As the fourth quarter was about to start, the score table called the refs over to discuss what they thought was a score discrepancy. The scorekeeper from Beyer was convinced that during the third quarter, he gave a two point basket to us, instead of Beyer.”

Bartelink went on to explain that, during that third quarter no one noticed any score issue; the players, the coaches, the fans, or the refs.

“After a very brief discussion with the scorekeepers on each side, the refs sided with the scorekeeper from Beyer, and the score was adjusted to 40-38 Escalon. Needless to say, that deflated our players some” the coach admitted. “I watched the game film multiple times following the game and charted every basket. The original score of 42-36 Escalon was accurate. Changing the score to 40-38 had a huge impact on the game.”

Having a six-point lead entering the fourth quarter, with all the momentum, is much different than a two point lead, with no momentum, Bartelink noted.

“The game was played much differently after that point; and not in our favor. With all that said, we still had eight minutes to get the job done and we did not,” he said. “We had some critical turnovers towards the end. Beyer made a few big shots down the stretch, and our looks didn’t fall. I was proud of the effort our guys gave. I felt sick the way things played out at the score table.”

Ethan Garza paced the effort with 16 points, Jack Anderson put in 13 points.

Freshman Logan Huebner had his best game as a varsity player to date with 10 points and five rebounds.

“He does so many good things for us; he’s making it hard to take him off the court,” Bartelink said.

Sammy Jimenez had eight points on the night.

Wednesday, the Cougars were at home, hosting the defending CIF SJS Division IV champion Liberty Ranch. After the visitors took a 20-12 lead in the first quarter, Escalon battled back to take a lead at the half 29-27. The teams were evenly matched and had to go to an overtime period to decide the contest, as it was 49-49 at the end of regulation. There was very little scoring in the extra frame, Escalon notching three points to just two for Liberty Ranch, the home team coming away with the 52-51 victory.

“Last spring, I wanted to schedule some tougher opponents for this season. Getting Liberty Ranch and Beyer on our schedule definitely helped strengthen our schedule,” Bartelink said.

His team, however, didn’t start out the game defending well and had to make some adjustments for the second quarter.

“The game was back and forth most of the second half. Liberty Ranch had a 6-0 run late in the fourth to get their first lead of the second half,” explained Bartelink. “Liberty Ranch had a three-point lead and on our last offensive possession, Jack Anderson hit a 30 foot three-pointer right in front of our bench to tie the game. Anytime Jack is shooting, I feel it has a great chance of going in, and this was no different. We got a stop and sent the game to overtime.”

Prior to overtime, Bartelink said the coaching staff “told the guys in the huddle that we had new life, and to take advantage.”

Escalon’s defense was really good in overtime; the offense was not. Liberty Ranch scored the first basket between the two teams in overtime with about 12 seconds left. Their player was fouled while making a lay-up.

” Fortunately for us he missed the free throw. We called a timeout and drew something up. Our first option wasn’t available, but we still fortunately found Jack for another three point attempt. The defender slid under Jack as he landed after taking the shot, which is a foul. The ref called the foul, and Jack calmly walked up to the line and drilled all three free-throws, giving us a one-point lead. Liberty Ranch actually got a decent look at a game winner with three seconds left, but it didn’t go down, giving us the thrilling victory.”

It was another game in which plenty of Cougars made good contributions, said Bartelink, but Anderson was front and center.

“The story of the night was Jack’s clutch shot making. First the three to tie the game in regulation, and then the three free-throws in overtime to win the game. No one in our program in recent memory has put in more work than Jack,” Bartelink said. “He has hit the same shots thousands of times in an empty gym, which put him in position to do the same, with the lights on. I couldn’t be happier for him. That was his biggest moment of his varsity career.”

Anderson poured in 21 points, with nine from Huebner and eight from Garza.

“We also had great minutes from Julian Borrego and Derek Fragoso,” added Bartelink.

Friday, it was back on the road for a game at Central Valley in Ceres, the final a 75-64 loss for Escalon.

“The first quarter was played at a high level on the offensive end. Neither side could stop each other. We were missing two of our more physical and best defensive players in Logan Huebner (illness) and Ben Fletcher (sidelined the last two weeks with an ankle injury), and it showed,” Bartelink said of being a little short staffed in the contest. “The offensive pace settled down in the second quarter. We had no trouble scoring in the third quarter (24 points), but we also had 11 turnovers during those eight minutes. I feel like we could have put the game away during that time, but we did not.”

Still holding the lead with less than five minutes to play, the Cougars just couldn’t hang on long enough to get the win.

“The fourth quarter was one of the more disappointing performances that I can remember going through the last few years,” Bartelink admitted. “With 4:48 left in the game, we led 61-53. Over the next three minutes, we went on to turn the ball over five times, miss wide open lay-ups, miss the front end of a 1-and-1, and have several defensive breakdowns. Those turnovers and defensive breakdowns allowed Central Valley’s best player to go off, going on a personal 17-0 run to take the lead.”

As disappointing as the loss was, Bartelink said it points out the need for the team to play better in key moments of games, something they will work on prior to starting Trans-Valley League play.

Jimenez had 13 points and seven rebounds; Anderson had 12 points and Garza scored 11. Zack Valencia added 10 points and seven rebounds in the contest while Frank Richard Barrera had nine points and six rounds.

The team was to play three games this week, including a Thursday, Dec. 22 contest at home hosting Johansen.

Escalon’s JV boys beat Beyer 56-50, defeated Liberty Ranch 50-30 and beat Central Valley 57-48, sweeping their games this week. They improved to 6-3 overall, with head coach Dave Anderson at the helm.

On the flip side, it was a tough week for the freshmen as they took three losses in their contests, falling to Beyer, Liberty Ranch and Central Valley.

“We weren’t ready to play and should have won,” freshman head coach Steve Largent said of the game with Beyer. “We made a late charge but it was a little too late. On Wednesday we played a really great first half against Liberty Ranch. I was proud of the rebound effort after Monday night’s game.”

The final was 50-27 but Largent said it was a “step in the right direction” for the young team, learning as they go.

“On Friday we went to Central Valley and it got away from us in the second half,” said Largent. “Matix Trimble was a bright spot though, getting some time and really growing as a basketball player. An unfortunate injury to Lizandro Torres is really starting to show how important of a loss he was to us. He was a starter and we hope to get him back in a few weeks.”

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A newcomer to Escalon High School this year, junior Frank Richard Barrera is contributing some valuable minutes for the varsity basketball squad and here looks to dribble out toward his own basket after pulling down a rebound. Marg Jackson/The Times