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Final Basketball Games For Varsity Cougar Boys

Despite a season that resulted in only two wins in Trans-Valley League play, the Escalon Cougars saw some good things on the basketball court and head coach Martin Louro said he feels the team will fare better next season provided players do some work on skills in the off season.

"We finished out at Hughson and Ripon, on the road, and we dropped both games," Louro said of closing out the campaign. "At Hughson we got off to a really slow start, we couldn't make any shots."

Hughson, in fact, roared out to a 17-4 lead after one. Escalon regrouped and found some offense in the second quarter, outscored just 17-15 by the host Huskies in that frame. The Huskies had a 34-19 edge at the half and the teams traded points, 16-16, in the third.

"In the fourth quarter, at one point, we cut the game to three points," Louro said of battling to the end. "In that fourth quarter, some guys played with intensity."

Escalon outscored Hughson 22-20 in the final period but the end result was a 70-57 loss, as the Cougars had to foul toward the end of the game and the Huskies capitalized on the opportunities.

"We didn't come out on fire," Louro said of the team hurting its own chances for a victory. "If we play an intense game all the way, we have a chance to get them.

"We just waited too long."

Doyle Niu had 13 points on the night and Raymond David chipped in with 12, the two of them fueling the fourth quarter comeback. David had nine of his points over the final eight minutes and Niu had seven.

Justin Gutierrez added nine points in the loss and Leighton Pangilinan had eight.

"Spencer Murray didn't have any points but he harassed the other team on defense and caused some turnovers," Louro said. "Brandon Shaw, Doyle, Justin, Spencer and Raymond closed it out, they decided to play defense."

Hughson was limited to just two field goals in the fourth quarter but made 16 of their 21 free throws in that frame to take the game.

"The free throw line was the difference in this game," agreed Louro. "We were 17-for-33, the line was a big factor. They were 19-for-29 in the game, but 16-for-21 in the fourth."

On Friday, the Cougars traveled to Ripon for the season finale and the host Indians took a 66-43 win, making the playoffs with the victory.

Louro was happy with his team's effort, though.

"The intensity was there," he said.

Ripon had a 12-10 lead after one quarter and stretched that to a 27-19 margin at the half.

"Ripon came out in the second half and started making shots," Louro said. "They were hitting from 24, 25 feet out."

The host Indians outscored Escalon 21-11 in the third, 18-13 in the fourth.

"When they're hitting shots like that, there's not a lot we could do," the coach admitted.

Gutierrez, with 12 points, paced the effort and Shaw was also in double figures with 10 points. David chipped in eight, Niu added five.

"It was a respectable performance, Ripon is a good team," Louro said of his squad's showing in the finale. "They were playing for a playoff spot, if they lose, they don't go, so they had some incentive."

The seniors on the team closed it out for Escalon, getting plenty of playing time in the finale.

The varsity boys were 7-20 overall on the season, 2-8 in league play.

"This was a great group of kids," Louro said. "Most of the time, they showed up, playing with heart and passion."

With a JV team that was 6-4 in league, 14-13 overall and a freshman squad that also went 6-4 in league and had a 17-10 overall record, Louro said he is looking forward to bringing some of those players to the varsity level next season.

"You get better in the off season, that's when you work on skills, that's when you improve your game," Louro said. "I think we're turning a corner. We've got a bright future ahead of us."