They won two out of three – and will get a postseason berth.
Escalon’s varsity basketball boys fell on the road Tuesday, Feb. 9 at Ripon Christian but bounced back with two big wins, Thursday and Friday, to seal a spot in the basketball playoffs. They ended the week with a 6-5 mark in Trans-Valley League play with one game to go.
“Two wins leaves us in the playoffs no matter what, Ripon beat Riverbank, Riverbank would have had to have won Thursday night in order to have a chance,” said Escalon head coach Martin Louro.
The Cougars nabbed the final TVL playoff spot over the Bruins by virtue of their two wins this week and on the strength of a win over Ripon in the early part of the season; Riverbank lost both times they played the Indians.
Starting out on the road, the Feb. 9 game at Ripon Christian was a rough beginning to the week for the Cougars.
“They just played great, put it on us from the get go,” Louro said of the host Knights. “In the second quarter, we were able to get them to turn it over; we cut it (RC lead) to six points at halftime.”
But RC responded in the third quarter, outscoring Escalon 22-6 during that eight minute span, and walked off the court with a lopsided 73-47 victory.
Caleb Hansen had a strong night for the Cougars in the loss, scoring 24 of their points. No other Escalon player hit double figures.
The loss dropped Escalon to 0-3 for the second round, but they made it 2-3 with a Thursday night win over Hilmar, a Friday victory at Hughson.
“We had our last home game Thursday night against Hilmar and were looking to get a little payback from a shot that beat us at the buzzer there,” noted Louro. “We came out in the first half and played okay, but in the third quarter we came out inspired, got a lot of turnovers, turned them into points.”
A 33-13 scoring edge in the third quarter for Escalon put the game out of reach, and they were able to get everybody in the game.
“That was the best quarter we have had all season,” Louro said, noting that if they played at that level consistently, they would have fared much better in the league.
The Senior Night game, which included recognition for all nine seniors on the team prior to tipoff, also saw a trio of seniors leading the way in the scoring. Sam Lattig poured in 23, Hansen had 12 and Garrett Nebe added 10. Tommy Pangan, a junior, put in nine on the night.
Though they trailed by a point at the half, 26-25, the pivotal third quarter put the game in Escalon’s favor and they won the contest, 64-52.
Seniors honored were Lugardo Mendoza, Ryan Cavanaugh, Trent Avilla, Caleb Hansen, Sam Lattig, Michael Medina, Ryan Schuurman, Trevor Weinbrecht and Garrett Nebe.
Friday at Hughson, it was a game Louro said he circled on the calendar early on, knowing it would be the third game in four days, a tough road game and one that likely would figure in to playoff possibilities for the Cougars.
“We never trailed, we won every quarter but the first half we played their style, and it was an ugly game, we were not real happy at the halftime break,” the coach admitted. “We had 40 points but we had allowed 32. They just gum it up and make it an ugly game, they put their head down and go, you’re playing pretty good defense and all of a sudden you’re fouling them.”
Hughson went to the free throw line 41 times on Friday to Escalon’s 20, indicative of the foul issues.
“We won 77-61 so I can’t be too unhappy, our lowest quarter was 17 points,” said Louro.
The Cougars also had good point distribution in the Friday night road game, with Pangan netting 16, Lattig 14, Hansen and Trent Avilla 12 each and 10 from Ryan Schuurman.
The varsity boys were slated to close out the league season on the road Tuesday, after The Times went to press, at Mountain House on Feb. 16.
“We want to win, we’re playing for a seed,” Louro said. “I don’t think we will have a great seed but if we win (Tuesday) that’ll move us up one or two in the seeding.”
The Cougars will be in the D4 postseason and Louro said brackets are scheduled to be released today, Wednesday, Feb. 17.
“We will go play where they tell us to play,” the coach said.