By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Escalon Varsity Boys Top Riverbank, Hughson In Hoop Action
Placeholder Image
It's nice to be 3-0 but the season is still young.

Varsity boys basketball coach Mike Backovich is extremely pleased with the strong start for his Cougars, but noted that the TVL road is a long one and there is plenty of work to do.

The boys took two wins off the court this week, getting past Riverbank 54-44 at home on Tuesday and then putting away Hughson in a strong road game on Thursday, 67-34.

"We're 3-0 and I'm happy with that but what matters is what happens after 14 games," said Backovich. "I'm hoping we can do well in this next stretch."

That stretch includes three games in five days, two of them on the road.

In the most recent wins, the Cougars used some strong defense to turn the tide in their favor.

They hosted Riverbank on Jan. 11 and ran out to an early 14-5 lead. They kept up the pressure in the second quarter and led by a 25-12 margin at the half.

"We did some real good things defensively early," Backovich explained. "We switched some screens and that affected them, they didn't shoot well."

In the second half, the visiting Bruins made it more of a contest, making adjustments to the Cougar defense. Riverbank, in fact, outscored Escalon 19-9 in the third quarter to trim the Cougar lead to 34-31 as the fourth quarter began.

Backovich said his players tightened up in the key in the second half and Riverbank was able to kick the ball out to the perimeter, setting up the 3-point baskets that got them back in the game.

"We built a big lead early and were able to weather the storm," Backovich said of the contest. "We really didn't shoot well from the outside or on free throws."

Steve Gentry had a strong night, pouring in 18 points including a couple of 3-point baskets, Grant Goedhart added 11. Brian Beeman chipped in with eight points.

On the road at Hughson on Thursday, Backovich said the final score was a bit deceiving because his players had trouble early on and were behind in the first quarter.

Both teams came out sluggish, host Hughson taking just a 6-5 lead after one period. Escalon turned it up a notch in the second and poured in 23 points to Hughson's 11 in that frame, taking a 28-17 lead at the half.

"We didn't play well early and they did," Backovich said. "But it makes a difference when we get a perimeter guy shooting well."

Marc Backovich and Marcus Savage each got hot from 3-point range and while the Hughson defense started to focus on them, things opened up underneath for Gentry, who took full advantage and put in 21 points. Backovich sank three 3-point baskets and Savage had two, forcing Hughson to watch them outside.

"I felt we got a good defensive effort from everybody," added Backovich. "Marc and Marcus started trapping up top, causing some junk and that pretty much took them out of their game plan."

The second and third quarters were where the game was won, Escalon putting away the Huskies with runs of 23-11 and 22-4.

A tough stretch now awaits the Cougars. They were slated to play Ripon on Tuesday, Jan. 18 after The Times went to press, then go to Ripon Christian for a Friday night game, Jan. 21 and are back in action at Livingston on Saturday, Jan. 22. They will play at Hilmar on Tuesday, Jan. 25 before coming back to Escalon for Homecoming against Livingston on Friday, Jan. 28.