Missing three key players didn’t seem to hamper Escalon’s JV Cougars on the basketball court this past week. In fact, the squad utilized its depth and players committed themselves to the goal of winning.
That resulted in a 3-0 run through the Cougar Christmas Classic and a first place trophy for the JV team at their own tournament, hosted Dec. 27 through Dec. 29.
Escalon opened up with a game against Linden on Wednesday, Dec. 27 and came away with a 61-19 win.
“It was not really a fair fight,” admitted head coach Nate Bartelink. “They’re going through a rebuilding year.”
Escalon outscored Linden 18-0 in the first quarter and had a 38-5 lead at the half.
“We got to get everyone in the game, all 12 guys scored,” Bartelink added. “Austin Terra had to step into a starting spot and he had 10 points and eight rebounds for us.”
Also contributing some solid minutes and scoring were Ethan Johnson with five points, Mitchell Cole, Alex Mendoza and Jack Fitzgerald, all adding four points.
“I was hoping the guys would have a ‘man up’ attitude,” Bartelink said.
They did, as the JV squad battled in their next contest and defeated Atwater, coming from behind with a strong second half to take the game, 64-59.
“We gave up 35 points in the first half, we turned the ball over a lot,” said Bartelink. “We had a great second half, we just played well, especially when we were down.”
Trailing 35-28 at the halfway point, Escalon went on to score the first four points of the third quarter to close the gap to 35-32. At 4:08 of the third, Kaden Christensen hit a bucket to put Escalon ahead, 40-38, and they kept the pressure on their Atwater opponent the rest of the way.
Escalon outscored Atwater 19-10 in the third, 17-14 in the fourth and several players hit key 3’s down the stretch to help seal the win.
“Kaden had 14 points and had some key three-pointers in the third and fourth, we also got three’s from Wyatt McCune and Clayton Ferreira,” said Bartelink.
Brenden Holmes had a monster night with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Terra had his second strong game of the tournament, scoring 13 and pulling down eight rebounds. Ferreira ended the night with seven points.
On Friday, the Cougars were locked in a battle with Beyer, the three-time defending Cougar Classic champions.
This time, the outcome would be different. The Escalon JV boys saw to that.
“The guys just wanted it,” Bartelink said. “Beyer had beaten us by 24 points two weeks earlier but we had a good game plan going in and the boys did a great job executing the plan.”
Escalon got the win, and the first place honors, with a 56-48 victory over the Patriots.
“Clayton hit two three’s in the first quarter,” Bartelink said of Escalon taking an 18-7 lead in that opening frame.
Beyer battled back with a 12-9 run in the second and then pulled ahead with a 22-11 run in the third, leading Escalon 41-38 after three.
“They made their run in the third and then we had our best quarter of the year in the fourth,” Bartelink said.
The JV Cougars poured in 18 points while holding Beyer to seven, earning the win.
“We hit 8-of-10 free throws in the fourth,” the coach said, with big buckets from the line cashed in by Holmes and Christensen.
On the night, freshman Holmes had 26 points and 11 rebounds.
“He was named the tournament MVP, he’s just playing at a really high level right now,” Bartelink said.
Kaidence Trejo had nine points, Ferreira had nine, Christensen had six points and eight rebounds and Terra added six points and nine rebounds. Both Christensen and Terra were named to the All-Tournament Team.
“It was a very gratifying way to end the preseason,” Bartelink said. “I also want to thank the parents and all the volunteers for helping at the snack bar, at the door, throughout the tournament.”
The JV boys compiled a 9-6 record for the preseason and host Riverbank on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 6 p.m. as they open Trans-Valley League play.
Escalon’s youngest basketball boys started the Cougar Christmas Classic off with a 69-43 victory over Johansen on Wednesday, Dec. 27 but couldn’t repeat that over the next two games. They fell in Thursday’s contest by a 52-24 final to Heritage and then lost in Friday’s finale against Enochs.
The freshmen open up league play with a 4:30 p.m. tip off against Riverbank on the home court on Wednesday, Jan. 3.