After improving to 4-0 with a win against Hughson at home on Tuesday, the Escalon JV boys basketball team suffered their first Trans-Valley League loss on Friday night, Jan. 22 at Hilmar.
They still ended the week with a 4-1 mark, leading the TVL standings.
Tuesday night, there wasn’t much of a challenge, as the Huskies came in severely undermanned.
“They have three sophomores up on the varsity, there just isn’t a lot there,” explained head coach Nate Bartelink of the visiting Hughson junior varsity squad. “We won, 49-9; that was with a running clock in the fourth quarter and calling off the dogs in the third quarter.”
Up just 5-2 after one – as Escalon had difficulty starting the game as well – the host Cougar boys rolled to a 20-3 scoring edge in the second quarter to lead it 25-5 at the half.
A 16-2 advantage in the third, 8-2 in the fourth, lifted Escalon to the easy win, Hughson never breaking into double digits for any quarter or the entire game.
“It was not a game that challenged us,” admitted Bartelink.
Sahil Prasad had 13 points and seven rebounds, Estephan Salcedo put in 11 points, with eight from Max Nicholas and five from Steven Grossi.
“So that put us at 4-0 heading to Hilmar, they had a full house for their Homecoming,” said Bartelink. “We had a great first quarter, looked good and played well.”
Escalon had a 19-10 lead after one but Hilmar turned the tables in the second, outscoring the JV Cougars 13-4 in the second quarter, knotting the teams, 23-23, at the half. Escalon could never get back to the form they had in the opening frame, outscored 12-9 in the third, 15-12 in the fourth to take the loss, 50-44.
“They played a zone on us the whole time,” Bartelink explained of Hilmar’s defensive effort.
Despite trailing entering the fourth quarter, the coach said his team did battle back, hitting three 3-point baskets in the final frame. But they also lost Salcedo to foul trouble, leaving them without one of their leading scorers for that pivotal fourth quarter.
“We got it down to one possession with about a minute to go,” Bartelink said of his players working hard until the final buzzer.
Turnovers, foul trouble and going just 1-for-7 at the free throw line in the fourth added up to the Cougar loss. Hilmar also made 19 free throws on the game, while Escalon hit just three of their free throw attempts.
“Nothing went right,” admitted the coach. “But the kids worked hard, played hard, and we are still in first place in league; we still control our own destiny.”
The JV boys were slated to close out first round play with a home game against Mountain House on Tuesday, Jan. 26 after The Times went to press. Following a Friday night bye (Jan. 29) the JV boys kick off the TVL’s second round with a home game hosting Riverbank on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
“Hopefully the loss should re-focus us, keep us driven,” said Bartelink, adding the team hopes it was just “a blip in the radar” and they will get back on track.
Salcedo had 13 points and nine rebounds before fouling out in the fourth, Prasad was also in double digits with 11 points. Nicholas chipped in with seven points, Grossi had six.
The Feb. 2 game tips off about 6 p.m.