Three games made for a busy final week on the court for Escalon’s JV basketball boys, and while they lost two of them, they enjoyed a final game home court victory in front of Cougar fans on Friday night.
“We were busy,” agreed JV head coach Nate Bartelink.
The boys hosted Hughson in a Feb. 7 contest but fell by a 63-54 decision.
“I felt our defense was pretty poor, when we played them on their floor, we only gave up 42 points to them, including overtime,” Bartelink explained. “It seemed like we were always chasing them in the second half, it was a disappointing one.”
Hughson had a 25-22 lead at the half and then put some distance between themselves and the host JV Cougars with a 22-12 run in the third quarter. Escalon was trailing 47-34 entering the fourth quarter and though they outscored Hughson 20-16 in the final frame, it wasn’t enough to get the win.
“It showed that we need to have a more consistent effort on defense,” Bartelink added.
Leading the way for Escalon was Brad DaDalt with 22 points, including 17 in the second half, with Frank Leal adding 13 and Lucca Dutra chipping in with eight.
Thursday at Hilmar, the team was looking for a little redemption, as they blew a 16-point fourth quarter lead against the Yellowjackets in their last meeting. But the redemption didn’t come, as the young Cougars were stung once again, this time falling by a 51-40 decision.
“We didn’t have a sense of urgency,” admitted the coach. “I was hoping we would come out and play with fire.”
Hilmar took a 9-5 lead after one, with Escalon’s best quarter coming in the second, when they outscored the host team 18-11 and grabbed a 23-20 lead at the half. Hilmar adjusted and scored 31 points to Escalon’s 17 over the final two quarters.
“In the second half some of our guys got into foul trouble, they made 15 free throws, we made five,” Bartelink said.
DaDalt had 15 points to pace the effort, Mikey Carroll had nine and Dutra had eight.
The two losses put the JV squad in a position where they really wanted to get a win on Friday night in their season finale. However, the Mountain House Mustangs had beaten them in their first meeting of the Trans-Valley League campaign by 22 points.
“And I was without two of my starters,” Bartelink said, noting that Carroll was out with the flu and Sam Fletcher went out with an injury in the game at Hilmar.
Despite all that seeming to go against them, the JV Cougars did not disappoint.
“It was maybe our best game of the year, we won 55-47,” said Bartelink. “We ended the season on a good note, I’m proud of the ability the guys showed to dig down deep.”
Down 11-9 after one but leading 21-17 at the half, Escalon trailed 33-32 after three.
“Then we had a great offensive fourth quarter,” said the coach, outscoring the Mustangs 23-14 in the final eight minutes.
DaDalt hit six free throws in the final frame, Leal hit four, helping seal the victory. The JV squad hit 11-of-15 free throws in that fourth quarter.
“Credit to them, they hit them when they counted,” Bartelink said of the steady shooting of DaDalt and Leal.
For the game, DaDalt had 22 points, Dutra had 11 and Leal and Zach Pickett each had nine.
“Brad had a lot of good drives and Zach gave us strong play that we needed,” said the coach.
The JV boys ended the season at 4-8 in league play, 9-18 overall.
“The wins and losses weren’t what we expected but the guys got a lot better during the season and if they continue to work hard, that will benefit them going forward,” Bartelink said. “They are a great group of kids.”
The youngest Cougar boys had a solid final week in Trans-Valley League play. The squad hosted and defeated Hughson on Feb. 7, hit the road and took a win at Hilmar on Thursday, Feb. 9. Their final game, against Mountain House on Friday, Feb. 10, did go in the loss column but the frosh boys wrapped up the campaign winning two of their last three contests.