Two losses in two games isn’t the way Escalon’s JV basketball boys had hoped to start off their league campaign.
But a pair of tough opponents in the always-competitive Trans-Valley League saw the squad fall in a pair of hard fought battles.
They opened up league action at home, hosting Riverbank on Wednesday, Jan. 3.
“We fell short, 52-46,” said head coach Nate Bartelink.
The JV Cougars were coming off the high of winning their own tournament over the holiday break but couldn’t get it back into gear against Riverbank.
“We definitely didn’t play great, we had a lot of turnovers, critical errors,” Bartelink explained.
The teams traded points, 11-11, in the first quarter and Riverbank had a 22-21 lead at the half.
The young Bruins went on a little run in the third, outscoring Escalon 17-11 in that quarter, which proved to be the difference in the game.
“As a group we couldn’t make the plays we needed,” agreed Bartelink.
There were plenty of solid performances individually by the Cougars, but the team fell just a little short. Brenden Holmes had 13 points and eight rebounds; Kaden Christensen had 13 points and seven steals; Austin Terra added six points and five rebounds and Wyatt McCune came off the bench to play well and add five points.
The JV boys then hit the road and faced off with a good Ripon team on Friday night, Jan. 5.
“We lost a very hard fought battle in double overtime,” Bartelink said of the heartbreaking loss.
The final was Ripon 60, Escalon 57.
“Kaidence Trejo hit three 3’s in the first quarter,” Bartelink said of his team outscoring the host Indians 15-11 in that opening frame.
Ripon responded with a 20-15 run in the second to take a 31-30 at the half. Escalon had the 12-11 edge in the third and the teams traded points, 10-10, in the fourth to send the game to overtime knotted at 52 apiece. Ripon converted on a late free throw to get the game to the extra period. In the first OT, each team scored just three points so they went to the second overtime tied at 55.
Ripon scored five points in the second OT to Escalon’s two, nailing down the win.
“They hit a three-pointer with four seconds left to seal it,” Bartelink said.
Problematic for Escalon in the contest was getting rebounds, the Cougars unable to come up with the big boards when they needed them most. They also lost Christensen late in the game, fouling out, leaving them without that big presence inside.
“The boys played hard,” Bartelink said. “I was proud of their effort; they wanted it, we just fell short again.”
The coach noted that, in looking back, he feels there were some other moves he could have made to improve the team’s chances, but it will have to go down as a learning experience for everyone.
Trejo had a monster night, pouring in 24 points, with 20 of them coming in the first half. He hit four three-point baskets. Holmes had nine points and 11 rebounds, Christensen had nine points and Jacob Walden had five points and 15 rebounds.
The JV boys look to get on the winning track this week as they continue TVL play. They were scheduled to host Ripon Christian on Tuesday, Jan. 9 after The Times went to press and will be back on the home court for a Friday, Jan. 12 contest, hosting Hughson at 6 p.m.