The second half of the Trans-Valley League basketball season got off to a good start for Escalon’s Lady Cougar squads. Both the varsity and JV girls crafted wins against the visiting Riverbank Lady Bruins on Thursday night, Jan. 24. Escalon had its bye on Tuesday, so the Thursday game was their only one for the week.
Final score in the varsity contest was 47-38 and it was a battle all the way through.
The visitors grabbed control of the game early, sinking two treys in the opening minutes to go up 6-0. At the same time, Escalon had chances at the free throw line but couldn’t convert, missing their first five opportunities.
“We knew they had a post that was going to give us problems because of our lack of size and we knew their guards could be pretty quick and scrappy on defense,” said head coach Joseph Dalpogetti. “We wanted to be able to deny the post the ball and double down if she got it on the block. I thought we did a decent job of containing her on the night and she only finished with 10.”
While the Lady Cougars were focused there, Riverbank got the ball to other players that helped keep the pressure on.
After finally sinking a free throw, that seemed to spark Escalon and they climbed back into the game, eventually leading by a 9-6 score after one quarter. The teams put up the exact same points in the second quarter, so Escalon had an 18-12 lead at the break. Still, said Dalpogetti, the score reflected 12 missed free throws for his team.
“The lack of success at the line caused what should have been a 15-point game to be only six,” he said of the halftime advantage. “We got outscored in the third 13 to eight and had a 26-25 lead heading into the fourth.”
The final frame was key for the host Lady Cougars, with the offense finally waking up. The girls put 21 points on the board in that quarter alone, after having scored 26 total over the first three quarters. Riverbank had 13 points over the final eight minutes, for the 47-38 final.
Brooke Campbell had 13 points to lead the squad, with 11 points from Hannah Boyd and 10 from Alexa Gomez.
“It may not have been as pretty as we wanted but every league game is tough,” Dalpogetti said. “We will take the wins any way they come.”
The varsity girls are now 11-10 overall and 4-3 in league. They entered this week a game back in the loss column on both Ripon and Ripon Christian and were scheduled to travel to take on Ripon Christian on Tuesday night, Jan. 29 after The Times went to press. They host Ripon on Thursday, Jan. 31 and then head to Livingston for a Friday night game, Feb. 1.
“Those are the top three teams in our league and our three league losses and none of the final scores in round one were close,” noted Dalpogetti.
Escalon will look to improve on their play – and hopefully get one of those teams in the second round – as they battle for a playoff spot.
It was a 36-20 victory for the JV Lady Cougars over Riverbank on Thursday night, opening up with a 7-4 scoring edge in the first quarter and then going on a nice 11-5 run in the second to go up 18-9 at the half.
“We started some different players tonight,” head coach Robbie Leal said. “We were without one of our usual starters so we were missing a big piece of our offense and defense, they also thought it was going to be a cakewalk, we won by 40 points the last time.”
But Riverbank has improved and Escalon juggled the line-up early, making for a more competitive game than the first time the teams met in league play.
“I wanted to see some other players get the start and we played a good game overall,” Leal added. “I don’t regret not starting the starters.”
Everyone ended up getting a chance to see the court and Escalon outscored Riverbank 10-7 in the third to lead it 28-16 heading into the final frame. Over the last eight minutes, the JV Lady Cougars put in eight points to Riverbank’s four.
Kaylee Leon was the leading scorer for Escalon with seven points on the night while Bella Jaime and Kalynn Cavanaugh each put in six.
“There’s lots of room for improvement, things like shot selection, playing under control, being smart with the ball,” Leal added. “But it was nice to get a win and everybody deserves to get on the court.”