Coming up just a game short of advancing to the Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs, the Escalon varsity girls won one out of their last three contests for the season.
“We beat Hughson on Tuesday in overtime, 41-36,” said head coach Joseph Dalpogetti. “We knew they were going to play much better at home and use their crowd to energize them.”
Escalon trailed 15-11 after the first quarter, but slowly chipped away at the lead and were up 22-20 at halftime. They had a one-point lead with about 20 seconds left in regulation but a late Hughson free throw tied it up.
“We used a time out to set up a full court press break play,” Dalpogetti said. “If we didn’t have a lay-up we wanted to pull the ball out and take a shot with about three to five seconds left. Enough time for us to get a put back but not enough time for them to go the length of the court.”
But the Lady Cougars missed a couple of tough shots at the buzzer and went to the extra frame on the road.
“We outscored them 5-0 in overtime, all on free throws,” said the coach of taking the win.
Jenelle Anderson led the way with 15 points. Haley Boyd had eight points and five rebounds, Shelby McCune had seven points and 14 rebounds.
For Thursday night’s Senior Night festivities, the pre-game recognition for seniors included honors for Jenelle Anderson, Alyssa Strock, Natalie Gonzalez, Ashleigh Strand, Julianne Archundia and Haley Boyd. Five of the six players had parents and/or family members there to escort them to half court for recognition; Archundia was escorted by all five of her senior teammates, as her parents were not in attendance. The six clasped hands as they walked to center court and ended the recognition festivities with a group hug prior to tip off.
A low-scoring game saw Escalon up just 15-13 at halftime.
“We eventually lost on a floater with about 15 seconds left,” Dalpogetti said. “We had plenty of opportunities but just couldn’t convert.”
Anderson and McCune both finished with 13 points in the 38-36 defeat.
Closing out the season on the road Friday, the varsity girls took a 41-31 loss at Mountain House.
“The game went back and forth until the final quarter,” Dalpogetti explained. “They pulled away in the final few minutes. We battled hard, but just fell short.”
The varsity girls finished the season with a 15-11 overall record and were 6-6 in Trans-Valley League play.
“Best record and win percentage since 2006,” the coach noted. “This senior class put together back-to-back winning seasons for a program that hadn’t had a winning season since ‘06.”
The Lady Cougars ended up ranked 15th on Maxpreps in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 rankings.
“Oddly enough that’s above both Hilmar and Ripon, who will both advance to the playoffs,” Dalpogetti said.
Wrapping up their season with a pair of wins after an early week loss, the JV Lady Cougars topped Hilmar at home and Mountain House on the road. They opened up the week with a 37-13 loss at Hughson on Tuesday, Feb. 7 but came back with more focus for their final two games of the campaign.
“Thursday against Hilmar we won 33-26 with Hannah Boyd scoring 12, Hunter Wheeler with eight and Katy Karp with seven,” said coach Thomas O’Hare. “Great win from our loss against them at their home court when we had our captain injured in the first two minutes. It greatly affected our team’s morale and hurt us as a unit. We were ready this time around and the girls got some much needed confidence back from that win.”
The contest was a close one throughout, and very low-scoring in the first half with Escalon leading just 17-15 after two periods of play.
Managing to stay a few points better in the third, Escalon stretched the lead early in the fourth but then saw Hilmar battle back.
After the Lady Yellowjackets closed to within 28-26 with 3:57 left in the game, O’Hare took a time out to re-settle his team. The tactic worked, as Hilmar did not score another basket the rest of the way. Karp hit a huge 3-pointer with just over a minute and a half to go for the final basket and 33-26 victory.
“Friday’s game against Mountain House was a similar story. We had beaten them once already but had heard they had been practicing to beat us,” noted O’Hare. “We won 28-27 in a close finish.”
Wheeler paced the team with 10 points, Leila Phillips had nine and Karp chipped in with five points.
“This season was filled with ups and downs. Girls getting injured, moving to other states and various other issues causing our team to drop from 11 to seven playable girls,” O’Hare said. “All and all I am very proud of what these girls were able to accomplish and am confident if they stick with the program they will bring Escalon girls basketball to become more prominent in the city.”
This was O’Hare’s first season as the JV coach for Escalon.
“Thank you to all the girls and their parents for their support and assistance throughout this season,” he said. “I am so grateful and honored to be a part of such a wonderful program.”