In a contest where way more fouls were committed than whistled, the Escalon varsity Cougars went to overtime to get a win against the rival Hughson Huskies. The win lifted Escalon to an 8-3 mark in Trans-Valley League play and they improved to 13-12 overall.
“It was the most physical game I have seen in a while, the luck of the draw, we got officials that hated their whistles,” explained varsity coach Martin Louro. “There were a couple I thought warranted flagrant fouls.”
The officiating notwithstanding, the two teams battled it out on the court and Escalon came away with a 61-60 victory, outscoring Hughson 9-8 in the overtime period.
There were only a handful of fouls called on each side in the first half, but the refs did start calling more fouls in the second half, which proved to be the difference for the Cougars.
“All of our points in the OT came on free throws,” said Louro. “We won that game at the free throw line.”
Escalon took a 15-7 lead after one quarter, and went up 32-21 at the half. It was a double digit lead, but Louro said it wasn’t a comfortable one.
“Thomas Diniz hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the second quarter and that made it an 11-point lead and I told my assistant coach that it was a big bucket,” Louro said.
Time would prove him right, as the Huskies outscored Escalon 16-7 in the third to trim the lead to 39-37 and then were a bucket better, 15-13, than Escalon in the fourth to send the game into the extra period, tied up at 52-52.
“It really was the perfect storm,” Louro added of the Feb. 11 contest on the road. “It was their Senior Night, a big crowd, a hostile atmosphere. We didn’t play poorly but we weren’t sharp.”
The Cougars also had trouble getting into any kind of rhythm, as the Huskies managed to foul them every time they turned around, or so it seemed.
“It was a playoff atmosphere,” Louro added. “For Hughson, this was their playoffs; they tried to knock us off.”
Three teams from the TVL will move on to the playoffs, with Modesto Christian, Riverbank and Escalon the top three teams.
Owen Pangilinan had 15 points to lead Escalon, still hampered by an ankle injury, while Diniz had 14. Stephen Silveira scored nine points, with Ben Hood and Marvin Lawrence each adding eight.
“We were 9-for-12 from the free throw line in the overtime,” said Louro.
For the game, the Cougars took advantage of their opportunities at the line, with Pangilinan going 8-for-10, Silveira 5-for-6 and Hood, 2-for-2.
Escalon was due to close out the regular season on the road, facing Modesto Christian on Tuesday, Feb. 18 after The Times went to press. They should know by late Wednesday afternoon or early evening where they will start the playoffs, anticipating a first round game on the road.