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Late Season Hectic Pace For Lady Cougar Basketball
Varsity Lady Cougar Sammy Lang battles through the Hughson defense as she goes in for the lay-up in Friday night action on the home court. The visiting Lady Huskies had too much firepower and crafted a 20-point win over Escalon. Lang was leading scorer for the varsity girls with 13 points. Marg Jackson/The Times

In a week where they played three games, the Escalon varsity Lady Cougars basketball team won two of the three to secure a spot in the playoffs. They also played the final two games of the week without leading scorer Macie Vickers, as the junior was on a softball college recruiting trip. She was offered a spot – and verbally committed – to University of Nebraska to play softball for the Cornhuskers.

On the basketball court, though, the varsity squad opened up on the road against Ripon on Jan. 31. It was a pivotal match, said coach Joseph Dalpogetti, as Escalon had a one-game lead on them in the race for third place in the Trans-Valley league. The top three teams in league automatically qualify for the playoffs.

“We really needed to win that one,” Dalpogetti said, with the Lady Cougars eventually coming away with a hard fought 48-41 victory.

Escalon was up 14-8 after one, 28-19 at the break.

“Ripon had a nice run in the third where it just looked like they were playing harder than us for four to five minutes,” the coach said. “They actually took the lead for a brief moment, but we still led 36-34 heading into the fourth and outscored them 12-7 in the fourth.”

The night featured a breakout performance by senior Kelsey Webster.

“Kelsey had a night she’ll never forget; she hit six 3’s and finished with 24 points,” said Dalpogetti. “She was 6-for-7 from the free throw line, all in the second half, two late in the fourth to help ice the game.”

Thursday, the team as at home to host Livingston, the first of back-to-back contests without Vickers in the line-up.

Jumping out to a 9-0 lead, Escalon kept up the pressure, leading 29-19 at the half.

“They hit a 3 to open the third before we erupted on a 19-4 run the remainder of the quarter,” the coach noted.

Escalon took the game by a 57-33 final, firmly in control of the contest.

“Sammy Lang filled up the stat sheet with 23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, six steals and only two turnovers as our primary ball handler,” added Dalpogetti.

Friday’s game featured recognition for seniors Analise Silveira and Kelsey Webster, along with their families, prior to the contest against Hughson. The Lady Huskies came into the game tied with Riverbank for first place in the TVL and they came away with a 53-33 win, though Escalon did battle them tough.

“We got off to a nice start and led 5-2 and 9-6 but Hughson went on a large run and led 33-20 at the break,” the coach explained. “We battled hard in the third and cut it to six and had several chances to cut the deficit even more but I thought we shot ourselves in the foot too many times and eventually ran out of gas.”

Hughson seized the opportunity to pull away, winning by the 20-point margin.

Lang had 13 points and Silveira added 12.

“Hughson is just too deep this year and can keep throwing fresh bodies at you without their play wavering too much,” Dalpogetti said. “A strength every small school basketball coach wishes for.”

Escalon ended the week at 16-8 overall, 7-4 in TVL play with just one league game to go.

“We will finish as the third-place team and qualify for the playoffs for back-to-back years after a 16-year drought,” Dalpogetti said.

Playoff pairings are not yet finalized but Escalon expects to be on the road, most likely playing in the Sacramento area for the first round.

They were scheduled to travel to Hilmar for the regular season finale on Feb. 7.

“We have a chance to get to 17 regular season wins,” Dalpogetti said. “With all the injuries and games missed, that is something we are proud of, but we have to handle business first.”


Junior Varsity

A trio of games for the JV Lady Cougars saw them fall to their TVL counterparts in Ripon and on the home court hosting Livingston and Hughson.

Tuesday at Ripon, the final was a hard fought 32-26 decision, Ripon building up a 21-11 lead by half that Escalon couldn’t quite overcome. Ayana Cocio paced the team with 11 points.

Thursday it was a 54-22 loss to Livingston, Cocio putting in nine to lead the team. Against Hughson, it was a battle throughout and Escalon mounted a comeback in the final quarter. Down 42-27 after three, they outscored Hughson 18-6 over the final quarter, falling just short in a 48-45 decision. Cocio poured in 26 points in the loss.

Junior varsity player Aiden Hohenwarter pulls down the rebound in late game action against Hughson on Friday night. The young Lady Cougars battled hard but fell a few points short, 48-45, in the TVL contest. Hohenwarter had eight points. Marg Jackson/The Times