Just one game was on the boys basketball schedule for Escalon this past week, a contest against Trans-Valley League rival Ripon on Wednesday, Jan. 12. The Friday, Jan. 14 game with Livingston was postponed due to several Livingston players in COVID protocol.
“Wednesday afternoon Escalon and Ripon administration decided to play the game with limited spectators in an attempt to help limit the recent Coronavirus surge,” explained varsity head coach and EHS Athletic Director Nate Bartelink. “Our boys basketball program tried to push for a postponement of the game to a time a couple weeks later where hopefully we could have the chance to play a home game against Ripon with the normal amount of spectators. I did not want to take that potential positive experience and great memory away from our players, especially given that our current seniors did not have that same opportunity last season either.”
But, he said, the postponement could not be worked out and the game went on, with a limit of two spectators per player. What normally would have been a packed gym for an intense rivalry game was played with very few fans in the stands on each side.
“To say we were disappointed would be an understatement,” admitted Bartelink. “It was a very emotional afternoon, but we had to quickly try to get our minds right to play a very important game, which proved to be a challenge.”
The outcome was a 63-49 loss to Ripon for the varsity boys. They trailed 14-8 after one, 29-22 at the half.
“Forty-nine was our season low in points. We turned it over eight times in the first quarter which put us in a tough spot on the scoreboard,” Bartelink noted. “Our turnovers, specifically in the first quarter this season have been an issue. Throughout the rest of the game we struggled with their size. The size disadvantage allowed them to get too many high percentage shots in the paint and our defensive rebound percentage was too low.”
Though the Cougars were able to match the Indians, 21-21, in the third, staying within striking distance, the visitors had a 13-6 scoring advantage in the final frame to take the game by the 14-point margin.
“Our turnovers coupled with their offensive rebounds gave Ripon too many extra possessions. In addition, Russ (Weinbrecht) was in foul trouble throughout the entire game. There were some calls against him that I didn’t agree with, but that happens in basketball,” said the coach.
The team had a difficult time trying to compensate in his absence.
“Due to being in foul trouble, he was on the bench more than he was on the court. When he was on the court, he wasn’t able to get into his normal rhythm. Not only did we miss his scoring punch, but we also missed his size defensively and on the glass,” Bartelink explained. “We cut the lead to three late in the third quarter when Joey Fross hit three three-pointers. It was a six point game with six minutes left in the game when Russ fouled out, but we kind of fell apart at that point and couldn’t get any closer.”
Jack Anderson had a “great overall game” with 18 points, said Bartelink, while Joey Fross poured in 15 points while playing through a mouth injury. Zack Valencia provided some spark and scored six points.
The loss left Escalon at 1-2 in league, 11-7 overall and staying in the top 10, ranked ninth in MaxPreps CIF SJS Division IV rankings.
The JV boys won their game against Ripon, 66-53, while the freshmen lost to the visiting Indians.
This week, the squads were scheduled to be at Hughson on Tuesday, Jan. 18 after The Times went to press and host Hilmar on Thursday, Jan. 20. Freshmen start at 4 p.m., followed by JV at 5:30 p.m., varsity tip off at 7 p.m.