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Escalon Varsity Girls Reach Tournament Championship Game
J Anderson
Dribbling toward the basket, Escalons Jenelle Anderson has some pressure applied by the Waterford defense in Thursday night tournament play. Escalon won by a 41-28 final. - photo by Marg Jackson/The Times

Starting off the season with a 37-32 win over Central Catholic in the Foundation Game, the Escalon varsity basketball girls ended the week with a 3-1 record and second place honors in the Escalon Lion’s Club Tournament.

Maggie Casteel paced the girls with 13 points in the Foundation game, which doesn’t go on the team record, as it is a fundraising event hosted each year.

In tournament play, however, the varsity Lady Cougars won two games and lost in the championship, showing better than they have in years at the event.

“We’re definitely more athletic this year,” said coach Joe Dalpogetti of the squad. “We opened up with Amador and got a 39-38 win.”

With five seconds left in the contest, Amador had a chance to seal the win at the free throw line but missed the first half of a one and one, with the Cougars pulling down the rebound to keep their opponent from getting a chance at the putback.

Amador had an 18-16 lead at the half, Escalon used a 14-10 edge in the third quarter to get the lead.

“I liked that we found a way to win,” said Dalpogetti. “We were down by 10 at one point in the third quarter and we closed on a 12-point run to start the fourth quarter with the lead.”

Casteel had nine points, with Jenelle Anderson and Claudia Gomez each adding eight points.

Thursday, the girls were matched up against Waterford and took a 41-28 win, outscoring Waterford in three of four quarters. The teams were knotted 9-9 after one quarter, but then Escalon started to slowly pull away, leading 17-13 at the half, 30-22 after three.

“In the second half, the ball pressure was the key part of the game,” Dalpogetti explained. “They couldn’t get it past half court and our defensive standouts were Jenelle Anderson and Melissa Mullins.”

Scoring leaders were Gomez with eight, Lindsey Miranda with seven points.

For Escalon, the two wins put them into the championship game of their own tournament and they faced off with Bear Creek in the Friday night finale.

“We played them tough for a quarter and a half,” said Dalpogetti. “But then they closed out the first half on a 12-0 run.”

The teams were tied at 11 after one quarter, Bear Creek ended up outscoring Escalon 17-5 in the second to lead 28-16 at the half. A 35-14 scoring edge over the final two quarters gave Bear Creek the 63-30 win and tournament title.

“We struggled to limit the runs in the second half,” said Dalpogetti. “We would hold them for a couple minutes, then they would go on a big run.”

Justine Lawrence was in double figures for Escalon with 10 points, including two 3-point baskets.

“This was the first time in a long time for two wins in our tournament and the first time we have been in the championship game in many years,” Dalpogetti said, pleased with the overall effort of the squad.

Claudia Gomez and Maggie Casteel were named to the All Tournament Team.

The girls were scheduled to travel to Linden for a non-league game on Tuesday, after The Times went to press and will be back in Linden for tournament play Thursday through Saturday.

This year’s varsity is a mix of grade levels, with one freshman, one sophomore, three seniors and a handful of juniors.

“I like their work ethic,” Dalpogetti said. “They seem to be committed to each other and to getting better every day.”