For the first time since 1999, the Escalon varsity Lady Cougars are the Trans-Valley League basketball champions. The girls secured the title in a road game and are eager to take their game into the postseason.
They had a busy week, playing against Ripon, Livingston and Hughson.
Ripon and Livingston are battling it out for third place while Hughson entered the week with a shot at first place, along with the Cougars.
“We tried to focus on just taking it one day at a tie and not getting ahead of ourselves, but when it’s Ripon-Escalon with possible league titles coming into play you can throw all that out the window,” explained head coach Joseph Dalpogetti.
They opened up the week against Ripon, hosting the Lady Indians, and the game didn’t go according to plan.
“We played the game really tense. I think we played to not lose instead of to win, Dalpogetti admitted. “We lost the game 36-31.”
Ripon secured the victory on a couple of late three-pointers, erasing a fourth quarter four-point lead by Escalon. Macie Vickers had nine points and Rachel Farley added eight points and eight rebounds, Vickers had seven steals.
The team was the beneficiary of Riverbank defeating Hughson that day, helping the Lady Cougars stay in control of their own destiny.
“Thursday we headed down to Livingston to play a tough team who was coming off some quality wins and a tough loss to second place Hughson,” Dalpogetti said. “We came out and played like a team that was playing for something. We jumped them 15-1 in the first and 14-5 in the second. We led 29-6 at halftime before a lid was placed on the bucket for us and they got hot for outside and outscored us 17-2 in the third.”
But the Lady Cougars outscored the Lady Wolves in the fourth and got out of there with the victory, paced by Vickers with 20 points and Soleil Gouzenne with 11. Kelsey Webster added 11 rebounds.
Hughson lost that night to Ripon so the girls went on the road to Hughson on Friday with a one game lead.
“If we won we could clinch it outright,” Dalpogetti said of the TVL title. “If we lost we could still beat Hilmar on Tuesday for a co-championship. But we wanted to be selfish. We didn’t want to share it with anyone.”
Coming away with a 51-35 victory, the girls solidified their number one spot in league, TVL champions.
Escalon had a 23-15 lead at the half.
“They went on a nice run to open the third and led 27-25 before we finished the quarter up 33-29,” Dalpogetti said. “Then we outscored them 18-6 in the fourth to pull away.”
Vickers had 18 points, Marissa Silva eight, Rachel Farley finished with seven.
It is the first outright title since 1999 and the third in school history, with the other coming in 1983.
“Incredibly proud of this group. They work hard every single day and they truly play for one another,” the coach said. “There is no ego on this team. The only stat they care about is the Win-Loss record and that’s a beautiful thing.”
The girls were to host Hilmar in the regular season finale on Tuesday, Feb. 8 after The Times went to press, honoring the senior players and their families on Senior Night prior to tip off. Three seniors are on the roster: Soleil Gouzenne, Marissa Silva and Rachel Farley.