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Lady Cougars record-setting season ends with NorCals loss
Basketball finale
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Escalon senior Chloe Farley does battle for a rebound, trying to grab the ball away from her Colfax opponent during the Division 4 Section final game at UC Davis on Feb. 23. Escalon’s season ended with a loss in the first round of the NorCals on Feb. 27. Marg Jackson/The Times

In a season where they won 28 games, took the championship of all three tournaments they played in, and returned to the NorCals, the Lady Cougars ended their basketball campaign on Feb. 27.

Escalon, coming off their Section championship game loss, did get the number three seed in the Division IV NorCal regionals, hosting the number 14 Notre Dame Regents out of San Jose in the opening round.

The game saw the visiting team take a 47-40 win over Escalon, ending the season for the Lady Cougars.

“We got matched up with Notre Dame of San Jose; they were the Central Coast Section’s D3 champ, so not sure why they dropped to D4 for NorCals,” Escalon head coach Joseph Dalpogetti said. “You can call it sour grapes, but competitive equity at that level only hurts the small school, one horse towns who are having generational seasons.”

To further illustrate that point, Dalpogetti noted that the 14 seed Notre Dame team went “down the road” on Thursday, Feb. 29 where they ended the season for the number 11 seed Riverbank Lady Bruins, taking a one-point win to advance to the semifinal round.

On the court in Escalon for the opener, the coach said both teams had a slow start in the Feb. 27 game. The Lady Cougars were down 11-6 after the first quarter.

“We did take a lead in the second, but it was short lived and we trailed 19-16 at halftime,” Dalpogetti added. “There was a lid on the bucket in the third quarter for us that ultimately doomed us. In the first four possessions (of the second half) we didn’t convert on what could have easily equated to eight points while Notre Dame was hitting off balance runners.”

The visitors gained the upper hand, outscoring Escalon 19-4 in the third quarter, putting the host Lady Cougars into a deep hole.

“There was a sequence when one of our leading scorers missed a breakaway lay-up, we got a steal, and another one of our leading scorers missed another breakaway,” noted Dalpogetti. “All in about seven seconds and that’s when I started to think it’s just not our night.”

Escalon trailed 38-20 going into the final frame, but were determined to make things tough on their opponent.

“True to fashion, this team wouldn’t quit,” Dalpogetti agreed. “We went to an aggressive full court press, actually one we hadn’t run all year, and were able to cut it to one possession.”

But a late three-point shot gave Notre Dame the edge it needed to ultimately put the game away, winning 47-40.

Escalon was paced by Macie Vickers and Aiden Hohenwarter, each with 12 points on the night. Sammy Lang had seven, Madi Babasa chipped in with five and Ari Velasco had four points.

“I was proud of how hard the girls battled until the end,” Dalpogetti said. “In fact, I can’t think of one time all season where this team didn’t play hard.”

He said while there were the occasional moments of not playing well or having to deal with scoring droughts from time to time, there was no quit in their overall approach.

“The heart and grit was always there and I’ve never been able to say that about a complete season, and this was for 32 games,” Dalpogetti said.

Escalon went 28-4 for the campaign.

“We had a historic season,” the coach said simply. “Twenty-eight wins, program record; 19 game winning streak, program record. Won all three tournaments we entered. TVL champs. First Section title appears in school history. And got bumped up from D5 to D4 in NorCals this year.”

Also adding to the excitement and record-setting pace, senior Macie Vickers reached the 1,000-point plateau and finished her high school career with a total of 1,035 points.

“I enjoyed every moment of coaching this team. They played for each other more than themselves; made bonds that will last a lifetime and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about,” Dalpogetti said.

The team had plenty of senior leadership in Macie Vickers, Sammy Lang, Ashley Titsworth and Chloe Farley.

“These seniors have helped lead us to three straight 20-win seasons,” Dalpogetti summarized. “Two TVL titles in three years, back-to-back seasons of reaching the semis after a 43-year drought, first Section title appearance. Back-to-back NorCal games. Their legacy has shown the next generation of Lady Cougars that we play basketball in this town too.”

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Working to split the Colfax defenders, junior Aiden Hohenwarter watches to see if a shot she put up hits the basket, the action coming during the Section final game in Division 4. Escalon lost that contest; Hohenwarter did have 12 points in the team’s season finale, a NorCals opening round defeat on Feb. 27 on the home court in Escalon. Marg Jackson/The Times