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JV Cougar Boys Top Bruins, Fall To Ripon
JV Cougar Estephan Salcedo, 25, dribbles toward the basket in Friday night action in Escalon. He put in eight points but the JV squad came up short against Ripon, 52-39. Marg Jackson/The Times


Though they battled in both games this week, only one of them went into the win column for Escalon’s JV basketball boys.

The win came against Riverbank, the loss to Ripon.

Tuesday, they hosted the Bruins and came away with a hard fought 58-50 victory.

“It was a little bit tougher than I expected, they never went away,” said JV head coach Nate Bartelink. “It was definitely a tight game.”

Escalon was up 12-6 after one, 24-17 at the half. But Riverbank had the scoring edge, 18-15, in the third quarter to trim the lead to 39-35 entering the final frame.

“We’d get an eight, 10-point lead, then they would hit a couple of three’s, they were hitting them from everywhere,” Bartelink said of the resilient young Bruins. “They had seven three’s in the second half, they just caught fire.”

Bartelink had praise for his players, though, noting that they did what was needed to get the win.

“The kids kept their heads, they executed down the stretch,” Bartelink said. “We made our free throws when it counted, got the stops we needed.”

Estephan Salcedo had 22 points and eight rebounds; Sahil Prasad had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Max Nicholas added nine points.

“Those three carried most of the offensive load,” said Bartelink. “Nic Lattig also gave us some big minutes in the fourth quarter, hit some free throws and buckets, pulled down some rebounds.

“This was a solid win against a scrappy Riverbank team.”

That set up a crucial game against Ripon on Friday night, in the Cougar gym, with both teams coming in at 6-1.

“Our offense fell flat against their zone,” Bartelink explained. “In the first half we didn’t move the ball side to side real well, the shots we took weren’t great and they definitely weren’t falling.”

Defensively, the JV Cougars played well in the first half, also utilizing a zone, but Ripon was able to score more than the home team, eventually handing the JV Cougars a 52-39 loss.

Ripon had a 13-7 lead after one, 20-13 at the half.

The Indians took a 33-19 lead into the final frame, but the Cougars went on a run to get the game back within reach, trimming the lead to just three points with about three-and-a-half minutes to go in the contest.

“They expended a lot of energy to get there,” Bartelink said of getting to within three points. “We just ran out of gas.

“In the second half, one of their players hit four three’s, he had six overall in the game, had a total of 19 points, he was the ‘X-factor,’ it shocked me a little bit.”

Down by double digits in the third quarter, Bartelink said his players pressed Ripon in a full court man to man defense in the fourth and got the lead down, but just couldn’t quite get enough to get the win.

“They kept battling, it just wasn’t our night,” Bartelink said. “The first half put us in a big hole. It doesn’t always go your way; it was a life lesson for the kids.”

Nicholas had 10 points to lead the team, including three big three-point baskets in the fourth; Salcedo put in eight and Elliott Mello added seven points.

“They’re a very good team, have only one loss in league, and that was to us the first time around,” Bartelink said of Ripon. “They are 7-1 and we are now 6-2.”

The JV boys can still challenge for the league title but need to win their games and get a little help from others in taking down Ripon.

They will be busy with three games this week, at Ripon Christian on Tuesday (played after The Times went to press), host Hilmar on Thursday, Feb. 11 and play at Hughson on Friday, Feb.12.