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Homecoming Contest Slips Away From Varsity Boys
Reaching one of two goals they set for themselves against Modesto Christian, the Escalon varsity boys nonetheless lost the basketball game on the road Tuesday. They came back to battle Ripon Christian down to the wire Friday night at home, losing that Homecoming contest to go 0-for-2 for the week.

In action at Modesto Christian on Feb. 5, the boys fell 97-62 to the powerhouse Crusaders.

"Our goals were to keep them in the 80s and for us to get into the 60s," said coach Martin Louro. "We felt they were realistic goals and we made half of it."

James Harrison hit for 20 points on the night and Spencer Franceschetti had 10. Tim Bacay added nine points.

"They just have too many weapons," Louro said. "When they come to play, they play."

Modesto Christian doubled up the Cougars in the first quarter, pouring in 34 points to Escalon's 17. It was an even bigger margin in the second quarter, with the host team outscoring Escalon 29-14 to take a commanding 63-31 lead at the half.

The Cougars scored another 31 points in the second half, 19 points in the third and 12 in the fourth, while Modesto Christian had 19 in the third, 13 in the fourth.

"Their subs came in and played much of the second half," Louro said of the Crusaders' point output going down over the final two periods. "I wouldn't say I'm happy they're in our league but I do enjoy playing them, it gives our kids a chance to see that caliber of basketball.

"I really felt that all three (league) games we played against them, we competed, we were playing hard and doing good things."

Friday night, the Cougars hosted Ripon Christian in the 2008 Homecoming, a game that saw the crowning of Fernando Munoz as Homecoming King at halftime of the varsity contest. Unfortunately, the home team couldn't cap it with a win, falling by a 61-50 verdict to the Knights.

The Cougars got off to a good start, scoring 15 points in the opening quarter to visiting RC's 12. The Knights regrouped for a solid second quarter, outscoring the Cougars 20-9 to lead 32-24 at the half.

"One of our issues this year has been discipline," Louro said, noting that, with his Cougars down 30-24 in the closing seconds of the opening half, he wanted them to set up for one final shot in hopes of pulling within four points.

But the shot was taken too fast and missed, giving the Knights the chance to get the ball down to their end and hit the shot at the buzzer, taking the 8-point lead.

"Until we get disciplined enough to execute a game plan," Louro said, "we're going to struggle."

Also tough for the Cougars on Friday was an officiating crew that saw many more fouls committed by the home team, 27, as opposed to the visitors, 17.

Ripon Christian hit 16-for-29 shots from the free throw line, while the Cougars hit just 4-of-10.

"They shot 29 free throws, we shot 10, that really was the difference," Louro said.

Tim Bacay was hot from beyond the arc for Escalon, knocking down three 3's in the first half. The Cougars trailed 44-35 after three quarters but came on strong to start the final frame.

They put in five unanswered points to start the quarter, with Spencer Franceschetti hitting a huge 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 44-40. Ripon Christian quickly responded, getting a couple quick treys of its own to go up 50-40 with 6:09 to play.

Escalon battled but couldn't make up the deficit, eventually losing by the 61-50 final.

"It was right down to the last 1:30 or so," Louro said of staying in the game with a chance to come back.

By then, though, he knew time was running out and opted to get all players in the game.

The two teams have played each other four times this season; each has won twice.

"They beat us the last two times and I can see them progressing and getting better," Louro pointed out. "We're not progressing, we can do things in practice but we just can't translate it into a game."

Louro said he knew the team - with just a handful with varsity experience - was young and needed time to mature, but he anticipated a seven or eight-win league season. So far, the Cougars have won two in TVL play.

"The bright spot Friday night was Tim Bacay, he had five 3's for 15 points," Louro said. "We've been telling him all year to shoot and he finally did."

Harrison added 14 points, Franceschetti had 11.

The Cougars were slated to host Riverbank on Tuesday, Feb. 12 after The Times went to press, recognizing Harrison, Bacay and Mike Martinelli in Senior Night ceremonies. They will be on the road to close out the season at Hughson on Friday night, Feb. 15.

Louro said the team needed to cut down on turnovers and generate more shot attempts in order to have a solid chance at winning the final two.

"Consistently, other teams are getting 12, 15, 20 more shot attempts than us," Louro explained. "We're shooting a decent percentage but we're not getting as many shots."

The varsity boys stood at 2-11 in league play after the pair of losses this week and are 5-20 overall.

"The frustrating part is that I expected a lot more, I really did," Louro said of getting more wins on the books. "We've got to go one at a time, though, get Riverbank and then think about Hughson."