Though they took two out of three games this week, the Escalon JV boys saw their title hopes slip away with a loss to Ripon Christian.
Still, they have a chance to take second outright in the league and coach Nate Bartelink remains pleased with the determination of his squad as the season winds down.
Tuesday, they opened up on the road at RC and took a lead in the first eight minutes, 16-9, but saw the Knights turn the tables with a 24-2 run in the second. Trailing 33-18 at the half, the young Cougars battled back but ultimately fell in a 61-53 final.
“That second quarter kind of put us behind the eight ball but we regrouped at half, in the third quarter we outscored them 16-12, we got it down to one point in the fourth and outscored them 19-16,” said Bartelink.
But a series of defensive possessions that didn’t play out well saw the host Ripon Christian team go on a 7-0 run to end the game and take the eight-point win.
“We haven’t played many close games where we were trailing at the end of the game, there was just a little bit of inexperience,” said Bartelink. “We battled, it was that one quarter that killed us, we beat them three out of four quarters.”
Sahil Prasad had 15 points, Steven Grossi had nine, with three three’s, with Max Nicholas and Lorenzo Martinez each scoring eight.
That was Escalon’s third league loss, putting them too far behind Ripon to catch up with only a couple of games remaining.
Hosting Hilmar at home on Thursday, Bartelink said his team was looking for some revenge, as the Yellowjackets had beaten them earlier in the season.
The JV Cougars won 61-48, leading 27-24 at the half, 43-41 headed into the fourth quarter.
Hilmar had one player that was hurting Escalon for the first three quarters, but the Cougars changed to a rarely used box and one defense in the fourth, with Elliott Mello and Lorenzo Martinez sharing the load and keeping that player to just two points over the final eight minutes.
“Lorenzo scored 28 points, had his best game of the year, he was playing at another level, getting steals, turning them into lay-ups,” Bartelink explained. “He hit four threes, went 4-for-5 from the line.”
Estephan Salcedo put in 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for a double-double on the night, while Nic Lattig continued his strong late season play with seven points and six rebounds.
“It was a real good win against a team that got us last time, we held them to just seven points in the fourth quarter,” said Bartelink.
Friday at Hughson to close out the week, the JV boys went in hoping for a somewhat easy victory, as they got a 49-9 win last time.
“I started Tim Megenney and Noah Stime, they gave us some good minutes early,” noted the coach. “But Hughson played much better, it was 21-15 in our favor after the first, the second quarter we outscored them 23-16.”
Leading 44-31 at the half, the JV team kept the pressure on and ended up with a 76-41 victory.
“That was our season high in points, eight of our 10 players scored and the highlight of the night was Thaddeus Stern, he had six points, hit two three’s, everyone was fired up for him,” Bartelink said. “I was happy to see him experience that.”
Salcedo had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Prasad had 15 points including three three’s and Lattig had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“He was seven-for-seven from the field, got a lot of offensive putbacks,” said Bartelink.
Martinez and Mello added seven points apiece to help the JV team close out the week at 8-3 in Trans-Valley League play, 14-12 overall. They were scheduled to close out the season on the road Tuesday, Feb. 16 at Mountain House, after The Times went to press.
“Ripon will take the title, hopefully we lock up second place with a win on Tuesday,” Bartelink noted. “I am proud of the boys, they keep working hard and with an early preseason that was tough, we finished with a very successful year.”