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Lady Cougars Net Twin TVL Victories On Court
Varsity player Dulce Rodriguez dribbles her way in while working to get past the Hilmar defender during Thursday night action on the home court. Escalon came away with a 37-28 win. Marg Jackson/the Times
Going up to the basket, Lady Cougar Brooke Campbell puts in two points against Hilmar in a Trans-Valley League contest. Marg Jackson/The Times

Two satisfying wins were gained on the court this week by Escalon’s varsity basketball girls, as they took down Hughson in a road game and Hilmar in a game at Escalon.

After having been in a long slump, the girls worked hard to break out and get back on the winning track.

They traveled to Hughson on Tuesday, Jan. 15 and came from behind for the victory.

Escalon and Hughson traded points to open the game, knotted at 14-14 after one.

“We had a slow second quarter and found ourselves down 26-19 at the half,” said head coach Joseph Dalpogetti. “We came out flat to start the third quarter and found ourselves down 12 immediately.”

At that point, the coach took what he termed “a loud and vocal timeout” to get his troops back in the game. After that, he said, the team “played hard and more together for the remainder of the game.”

The Lady Cougars trailed by just four points heading into the final frame.

“We outscored them 20-8 in the fourth quarter to win, 54-46,” Dalpogetti said. “It was a huge game for us to battle back from double digits on the road to snap a seven-game losing streak dating back to December 18.”

It was also the first time the team had scored more than 40 points in a game since the start of the slide as well.

Dulce Rodriguez played her first full game for the team since early December and provided a spark, leading the varsity squad in scoring on the night with 22 points.

Buoyed by the win and back at home for a Thursday, Jan. 17 game, the varsity girls took a 10-9 lead on visiting Hilmar in the first quarter but then found a lid on the basket.

“We went ice cold in the second and found ourselves down 16-12 at the break,” said Dalpogetti. “We tied the game at 26 with a buzzer beater 3 from Brooke Campbell to end the third.”

It all came down to the fourth quarter and the break in between periods gave the Lady Cougars the chance to reassess.

“In the huddle we addressed how poorly we had played up until that point and to think about all the mistakes and missed shots we wish we could have back,” the coach explained. “Then we looked up at the scoreboard and said with all of that it’s tied. All we have to do is win the next eight minutes.”

The squad did just that, responding well and coming away with a hard fought 37-29 win.

“Some girls stepped up and hit some big time shots for us,” Dalpogetti said. “Hannah Boyd scored first to make it 28-26. Hilmar answered back to tie it 28-28 then Alex Gomez hit a corner 3 to make it 31-28.”

Keeping up the pressure, Ryilee McNulty hit a 3 at the shot clock buzzer to extend the lead to 34-28 and a few possessions later, it was Katie Karp hitting the mark.

“She found a soft touch off back iron for another 3 to make it 37-28,” said the coach. “Hilmar only managed a free throw from that point on and the final was 37-29. It was another big win for us to come back from a small deficit in the second half and it brought us to .500 on the season and in league.”

Escalon stands at 3-3 in the Trans-Valley League, 10-10 overall.

Gomez paced the team with 11 point against Hilmar, Campbell, Boyd and Rodriguez added six points apiece.

They had their league bye on Tuesday, Jan. 22 and will open up the second half by hosting Riverbank on Thursday, Jan. 24 with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff time for the varsity contest.

“I’m very proud of this group,” Dalpogetti said. “We have battled injury and absences all season long. We have six underclassmen on the roster with only one active senior and they’ve found a way to compete. They work hard, they’re coachable, and most important, they are good kids.”

The team will approach the second half with determination, looking to make the most of matches.

“We will have a tall task in the second round of league as we will have a target on our backs from the three teams that we beat and we were blown out by the other three,” Dalpogetti said. “I’m excited to see what this group can do in all of these rematches.”