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Lady Cougars Take Close Losses In League Contests
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Shelby McCune (4) fights around the Lady Bruin defense near the end of the second half of varsity girls basketball in Riverbank last Tuesday. Ric McGinnis/The Times


A one-point loss and another by just a few buckets saw Escalon’s varsity basketball girls drop a pair of games in Trans-Valley League action this week. The losses put a serious damper on the girls’ hopes for a postseason berth, as they are battling for wins in the TVL.

Tuesday, they traveled to Riverbank and fell to the host Lady Bruins by a 50-49 final in the Feb. 2 contest.

“We were up by 10 points at one point in the game,” said head coach Joseph Dalpogetti.

Escalon took the win in the first meeting of these two teams, and Riverbank was determined to return the favor on their home court.

The varsity Lady Cougars outscored Riverbank 9-7 in the first, 13-10 in the second to take a 22-17 lead at the half and they built on that edge, running out to a 10-point lead midway through the third.

“We went up 34-24 but we let them crawl back into it,” explained the coach. “We turned the ball over a couple of times, we were setting up for the last shot (of the third quarter) but we shot too early and missed, they were able to get the rebound, come down and score.”

That left Escalon up by just 34-30 entering the final period and the Lady Bruins outscored them over that eight-minute span, 20-15, to take the 50-49 victory.

“They shot 15 fourth quarter free throws,” Dalpogetti added of the host team. “They made 11 of them.”

That really proved to be the difference, the home team able to take advantage of opportunities at the free throw line.

It came down to the end, as Dalpogetti said he felt a Riverbank player could have been called for a double dribble but no call came; and Escalon fouled the player as she drove the lane, setting up the free throws.

Shelby McCune had 15 points to lead the team, Sarah Leal added 14. Natalie Gonzalez and Jenelle Anderson had seven points apiece. McCune and Leal also tallied 15 rebounds each, while Gonzalez had seven steals.

Holding the lead late in games has been problematic for the varsity girls this season, with the coach noting that they have had fourth quarter leads in every game except a preseason game with Turlock and a pair of TVL contests with Ripon. They have just two wins in league play; several others came in preseason but the girls have had difficulty hanging on to late leads in league play.

On the road Thursday, the girls were one up on Ripon 6-5 after one and at the half, 15-14 at the half. But Ripon had the upper hand in both the third and fourth quarters, 11-6 in the third, 12-7 in the fourth. That left the Lady Cougars with a 37-28 loss in the low-scoring contest.

Ripon went on an 8-0 run to open the second half, putting some distance between themselves and Escalon.

“We played pretty well, we slowed it down in the first half,” noted Dalpogetti.

Ripon, though, was able to push the tempo and take control of the game in the second half, though Escalon’s pressure did force several turnovers, including eight by Ripon’s point guard.

Leal had nine points and eight rebounds, Anderson had eight points and McCune pulled down eight rebounds.

“We had a string of turnovers at the end of the third and then we just couldn’t get over the hump in the fourth,” said Dalpogetti.

This week, the girls were scheduled to host Ripon Christian on Tuesday, Feb. 9 after The Times went to press, then head to Hilmar on Thursday, Feb. 11 and have a home game on Friday, Feb. 12 against Hughson. Tip off time is 7:30 p.m.