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Forfeit Win, League Loss For Varsity Cougar Boys
Going up to the basket, Cougar Thomas Diniz works to get around the block of a league opponent in earlier action this season. The boys were home on Friday and fell to Modesto Christian; they will be back on the road Jan. 31 at Riverbank. - photo by Marg Jackson/The Times

Illness, a holiday trip and facing off with a league power all added up to a pair of losses on the court for Escalon’s varsity basketball boys this week.

They started with a Monday trip to Brentwood to play in a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday event and lost a lackluster 58-43 decision to Division I Heritage High School.

Head coach Martin Louro, who battled the flu for most of the week, said he didn’t feel well on Monday and the team also seemed to be influenced, not bringing much energy to the court.

“The kids played like it didn’t matter,” he admitted. “We lost to a real good team by 15 points but ultimately we got the win because their one guy in double digits, 26 points, was determined to be an ineligible player.”

So while the final score was 58-43 in favor of Heritage, the Cougars got the win by forfeit because of the eligibility issue.

Heritage took a 15-2 lead in the first quarter and kept the Cougars at bay the rest of the way, 25-15 at the half, 44-25 after three and the final of 58-43.

“They didn’t play well at all,” Louro said of Heritage, noting that the Cougars could have gotten them on the court if they had stepped up their game, but will settle for the forfeit win.

“It was a real good opportunity for us to face a Division I school, we just didn’t really show up with a lot of enthusiasm,” said Louro.

Owen Pangilinan had 12 points, Thomas Diniz eight and Ben Hood seven.

Friday night, hosting Modesto Christian to close out the first half of Trans-Valley League play, the Cougars managed to put up a decent score, 66 points, against the Crusaders but the visitors ended with 93 for the 27-point win.

“I’m not sorry that they’re leaving our league but I am going to miss playing them,” Louro said. “Having them in our league has made us better.”

To beat MC, the coach added, everything would have to “go perfect” for the Cougars and they played hard, but didn’t have enough to take down the visitors.

“We were looking to compete and make them work hard,” Louro said. “The kids bought into it on Friday and MC had to play really hard. It’s about respecting the game.”

Leading 59-31 at the half, Modesto Christian saw Escalon claw back into the contest with a 21-11 run in the third, trimming the lead to 70-52 after three quarters. But then MC turned it on again with a 23-14 run in the final frame to walk off with the win.

“They put it in cruise control in the third and we stepped on it,” Louro pointed out. “They realized they had to work hard in the fourth.”

For Escalon, this week looks to be the biggest of the season, as it will most likely determine where they will be seeded for the playoffs. They beat Ripon earlier on the road and Louro said they need to get that victory on the home court as well, with the team hosting the Indians on Tuesday, after The Times went to press. They travel to Riverbank on Friday and are eager to give the Bruins a run for their money as well.

“We want to put ourselves in a good spot for the playoffs,” Louro said.