Making it to the championship game of the Cougar Christmas Classic Tournament, the JV Cougar basketball boys fell short in the title contest, but nailed down second place honors.
The tournament was hosted over three days at EHS, Monday through Wednesday, Dec. 28 through 30 and featured both JV and freshman action.
“Thanks to all the parent volunteers, the freshman, JV and varsity levels, for all they did,” said JV head coach Nate Bartelink. “Whether it was providing food for the hospitality room, working in the snack bar or at the admission table, we appreciate all their efforts.”
Bartelink especially noted the work put in by parent Saul Martinez, who spent several hours at the admission table over the three days of the tournament.
“We couldn’t have put on a successful tournament without their willingness to help out,” Bartelink said.
Escalon’s JV boys started out with a lopsided 60-20 win against Linden on Dec. 28.
“It was a great start to the tournament, eight out of 10 guys scored,” said Bartelink.
Running out to a 19-6 lead in the first half, the JV boys never looked back. They outscored Linden 15-9 and 18-3 over the next two quarters to take a 52-18 lead into the final frame. That prompted a running clock with the Cougars outscoring Linden 8-2 over the final eight minutes.
“We played really well,” Bartelink said, with Nic Lattig scoring 13 points and Estephan Salcedo putting in 10 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Elliott Mello had eight points, Steven Grossi had six.
Into the winner’s bracket, the JV boys matched up against Weston Ranch in Tuesday’s contest.
“They’re a pretty good basketball school, we knew we were in for a tough battle,” the coach said. “We played our best game of the year by far and got a 60-40 win.”
Kudos went to Mello and Max Nicholas for their defensive efforts in keeping the best player for Weston Ranch under control.
“They are our two best defenders and they traded off, we denied him as best we could, kept the ball out of his hands,” said Bartelink.
Up 32-24 at the half, it was still anyone’s ball game, but the JV Cougars were able to finish strong and get the win. Salcedo had a double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, the 20 points a season high for the team. Sahil Prasad was right behind him with 19 points, Lorenzo Martinez had 10.
“We shot the ball better than we have all year, we also had six three-pointers, a season high,” Bartelink added.
Wednesday, the JV boys went into the tournament championship game against a very good Beyer Patriots team. They fell by a 72-41 final.
“We knew we had our hands full, they have only had one loss all year, we were up against it,” Bartelink said. “But I liked our chances, we just picked a bad night to not play well. We worked hard, just weren’t able to play our best ball when we needed.”
Down 19-10 after one, the JV boys trailed 42-15 at the half and could never cut into the deficit too much in the second half.
“We outscored them 18-11 in the fourth so we kept battling, played with a lot of pride,” Bartelink noted.
Tim Megenney had eight total points and keyed the big fourth quarter effort with six points in that frame. Prasad and Salcedo had nine points each, Martinez had seven. All-Tournament Team selections for Escalon were Prasad and Salcedo.
“There’s no shame in losing to that team, they are one of the better ones around, I was proud of our team to get to the finals, it’s the first year we have gotten there,” Bartelink said.
After starting the preseason at 0-4, the JV boys stood at 6-8 following their tournament appearance. They were scheduled to host Summerville on Tuesday, after The Times went to press and will be in Riverbank for the Trans-Valley League opener on Friday, Jan. 8 at 6 p.m.