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Final Contests Crucial - Playoff Picture Clouds For Varsity Hoop Boys
In a stretch where winning one out of three probably would have preserved their chances of hosting a playoff game, Escalon's varsity basketball Cougars couldn't find a way to notch a victory.

They battled but lost to Modesto Christian in a Jan. 24 contest, then lost at Riverbank on Jan. 31 and saw Ripon come in to take their Homecoming contest away on Friday, Feb. 3.

Escalon had earlier beaten Ripon on the road so the Indians came in with revenge on their minds and got it, a 60-49 win in the pivotal Friday night contest.

A 15-7 lead for Ripon after one quarter was up to 24-9 with just 2:49 to go in the second period before Escalon staged a little rally to cut the deficit to 29-20 at the half.

But a cold shooting night and a Ripon team that was more than fired up for the battle spelled defeat for the Cougars and likely knocked them out of contention for the home playoff game.

"It really was the worst case scenario," head coach Martin Louro admitted of dropping all three games in the two-week stretch.

Escalon had trouble getting shots to fall early on in the game on Friday, with multiple balls lipping in and out without falling through the net.

"We definitely didn't get any love from the rim," agreed Louro.

Earlier in the week, the boys were on the road at Riverbank and lost by a 70-59 final.

"This was two pretty evenly matched teams," Louro said. "It was just a tough game, we didn't play badly, we just didn't do enough to win."

Gino Franceschetti had 20 points to lead Escalon in the loss with Patrick Mulry adding nine.

"We got it down to four points in the third quarter, we had too many chances we didn't capitalize on, we were just 16-for-35 from the free throw line, that was the difference," Louro said.

Looking to regroup and get that needed win on Friday night, Louro said his team instead was lacking in its attack.

"We just didn't push the ball," the coach explained. "Offensively we settled for 3's and we didn't attack the rim at all, we were just 5-for-10 in free throws and it wasn't a good shooting night."

Defensively, the Cougars couldn't stop Ripon big man Jake McCreath and every battle he won underneath just fired up the raucous Ripon crowd even more.

"Offensively, we've got to show up and play," Louro said.

They also need to battle more under the boards, he said, with the team needing to get a few more wins to solidify their postseason chances.

Alec Von Alvensleben had 13 points to lead the team and Mulry was in double figures with 12.

"At halftime, I thought we'd righted the ship," Louro said of cutting the deficit down to single digits by the break. "We came out and attacked."

But it wasn't something they were able to sustain through the full second half and Ripon got the win.

"We've got to win our next three," said Louro, whose squad dropped to 4-4.

They were scheduled to host Orestimba after The Times went to press on Tuesday, Feb. 7 and will be at Hughson for a Friday night game, Feb. 10.

Next Tuesday, Feb. 14 will be Senior Night hosting Hilmar, then they close out the regular season with a road game at Modesto Christian on Friday, Feb. 17.