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JV, Freshman Teams Place Fourth At Cougar Classic
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Cougar Tommy Pangan, 11, moves in to defend as the Waterford player looks to get around him on the way to the basket in Friday night action in the Cougar Classic Tournament. The Escalon JV finished fourth overall, Pangan earned All-Tournament Team honors. Marg Jackson/The Times

Starting off the Escalon Cougar Classic on a high note with a big win, the JV basketball boys couldn’t repeat the feat and went 1-2 in their own holiday tournament.

The JV squad, along with the freshmen, hit the court for three games over four days, starting with the opening round on Friday, Dec. 26.

JV head coach Nate Bartelink said his team kicked the tournament off with a fast-paced, high-scoring win against Waterford. They roared out to a 28-3 lead in the first quarter and never looked back against the Wildcats. The final was 67-25 in Escalon’s favor.

“We needed a little bit of a confidence booster,” Bartelink admitted of his team, which has run the gauntlet in the preseason, mostly taking on much larger schools. “We hadn’t seen a start like that, 28-3, in a long time here, at any level.”

Escalon outscored Waterford 15-5 in the second quarter to lead it 43-8 at the half and easily brought it home.

“We got points off of transition, shot from the outside, got easy lay-ups,” Bartelink noted. “We played with a lot of energy.”

There are 13 players on the roster and 12 of them suited up for the Friday game, with 11 of them getting on the scoreboard. Kenny Boss had his best game of the season with 17 points, followed by Tommy Pangan with 12 and C.J. Gumbs with 11. Zack Gardner also added some solid minutes and seven points. Eric Campbell chipped in with six.

“It was a good way to start the tournament at home, it put us in the winner’s bracket,” said Bartelink.

Saturday, they were matched up against Atwater, a team they had previously beaten when they played in the Atwater Tournament.

“They returned the favor, it was a really hard fought game and we took a 49-47 loss,” Bartelink explained of Atwater getting the win on Escalon’s court.

Down 25-22 at the half, Escalon battled back to get the game knotted up at 37-37 entering the fourth quarter.

“They got two buckets on their last two possessions,” Bartelink said of Atwater. “We made less one play than they did.”

The result was a 12-10 scoring advantage for Atwater in the final frame, taking the two-point win.

“It was a good learning experience for them,” the coach noted of his young team in a close game. “Hopefully we can build off of that.”

Gumbs had 13 points in the loss, Boss and Pangan added 10 each.

Monday, Dec. 29, the tournament wrapped up and Escalon’s JV boys faced Beyer in the third place game.

“They jumped on us early,” Bartelink said of the Patriots. “They put on a full court press, we didn’t handle it well. And defensively we couldn’t stop them.”

Beyer raced to a 27-13 first quarter lead and forced Escalon to play catch up the entire game and kept them to single digits in three of four quarters. The final was 79-34 in Beyer’s favor, so the Cougar boys had to settle for fourth place honors.

“They’re a skilled team,” Bartelink said of Beyer, but added that it will be nice to have a chance to get his team some time on the practice floor. Pangan paced the squad with 13 points and was named to the All-Tournament Team. Gardner and Gumbs added five each. Winning the JV title was Patterson, taking a 57-48 win off the court Monday evening against Atwater.

For the freshmen, they got an opening round win against Johansen, taking a lead at the half and then watching the Vikings battle back to tie it up midway through the third. Escalon regained its composure and held a 32-29 lead after three. A high-scoring final frame saw the youngest Cougars come away with a 54-40 victory. That put them in the winner’s bracket as well, and they went the same road as their JV counterparts, falling on Saturday and Monday to take fourth place. Saturday, the frosh boys lost to Patterson and finished out the tourney with a loss to Heritage. Lincoln of Stockton defeated Patterson in the championship game.

“I really want to thank the Lions Club members and parents that helped at the gate and the snack bar and the parents who helped with running the hospitality room for the officials and coaches,” Bartelink said. “It was a very good basketball tournament and that’s a credit to their hard work.”

The varsity boys, meanwhile, were busy with the Columbia College Tournament following the Christmas holiday, starting off with a loss to Sonora on Friday.

“We were slow and lethargic,” coach Martin Louro said of the 77-59 loss on the road to open up the tourney.

The coach said the team played better in the second half, coming back from a 47-25 deficit to outscore Sonora over the final two periods, but not able to get the win.

“We shot 42 free throws but were just 20 of 42 from the line,” Louro pointed out.

The varsity boys were scheduled to face off with Golden Valley on Saturday, Delhi on Monday. Information was not available on those games at press time; look for results in the Jan. 7 issue.

Earlier tournament play saw them capture the consolation championship in both the Buhach and Carmel tourneys.