Needing a couple of wins during their final week to get into the playoffs, Escalon’s varsity basketball girls just couldn’t find the right combination to make it happen.
They fell in two home games and one on the road to close out the Trans-Valley League season with a 4-8 record. They were 12-14 overall for the season.
On Tuesday, Feb. 6 the girls were home against Hughson and lost a close one, 35-30.
Brooke Campbell paced the team with 11 points, Shelby McCune added 10.
“We had prepared ourselves to run some sets against their zone,” said head coach Joseph Dalpogetti. “We knew they wanted to try to take Shelby out of our game plan.”
Hughson scored the first basket of the game and then Escalon went on a 12-0 run.
“Despite the big run we left a couple easy ones off the board or else we could have built up a 20 point lead in the first half, but we allowed them to hang around,” Dalpogetti said.
That came back to haunt them later. The Lady Cougars were up by eight at the half and maintained that edge at the end of the third quarter.
“That was due to a buzzer beating three from Brooke Campbell, her third of the game,” noted Dalpogetti.
But Hughson came out fired up in the fourth.
“They hit a couple of three’s to get right back into the game. They ended up taking the lead and we could never get it back,” Dalpogetti said.
Thursday, the girls headed to Hilmar and fell a point short, losing 31-30 to the host Lady Yellowjackets.
“It was another low-scoring game as they were denying Shelby the ball, which we have grown accustomed to,” said Dalpogetti.
On the other end, Escalon put a box and one on their best player as well, looking to keep her under control.
McCune still managed to pour in 16 points on the night and pulled down seven rebounds. Leila Phillips added six points and eight rebounds.
“Their point guard had banked a three at the end of the first quarter and threw up a no-look shot that went in at the buzzer of the third,” Dalpogetti said. “That was the difference of the game as we found ourselves down five about midway through the fourth.”
Though Escalon was able to get a one-point lead with 30 seconds left, Hilmar converted on a pair of clutch free throws to get the win. The Lady Cougars did get a stop after taking the lead but then lost an inbounds pass after a timeout and ended up fouling the Hilmar shooter, who sank both free throws with eight seconds left. A drive by Escalon resulted in a foul but they were unable to convert at the line and a last second shot attempt on a corner jumper at the buzzer just wouldn’t fall, leaving Escalon on the wrong end of the 31-30 final score.
Friday night, the Lady Cougars were home for their season finale, Senior Night, with recognition for the five seniors on the squad. Daisy Camacho, Tatiana Martinez, Shelby McCune, Emily McPherrin, and Priscilla Nowling were the honorees, with each introduced and escorted to center court by their parents. With a different teammate introducing each of the seniors, the teammate also was able to share a special memory they had made with that senior. All five seniors took the court to start the game as well.
“There was a lot of emotion in the building during the ceremony,” Dalpogetti said, with the team a close one on and off the court, many of the players choking back tears. “I don’t think there was a dry eye on the team when we tipped the ball.”
Even during the playing of the National Anthem, the team stood at attention, hand in hand, and raised their hands together as the anthem came to a close. After a group hug by all seniors, they took the court together for one final time.
They hosted Mountain House in the contest.
“They’re in second place and playing much better than when we beat them in round one, 38-26; they haven’t lost since and gave Ripon their only TVL loss on Tuesday night (Feb. 6),” Dalpogetti said. “We had a seesaw first half with two incredibly different styles of play. They want to pick up the full court press and shoot a ton of three’s; we want to slow it down, get it into the half court and pound the ball inside.”
Escalon was up 23-22 with about two minutes left in the first half but a couple of calls late didn’t go their way, swinging the momentum to Mountain House, which capitalized and went into the half with a four-point lead, 27-23.
“The second half got off to a tough start,” added Dalpogetti. “They hit a three with their first possession on a defensive breakdown and then we turned the ball over on the other end for an easy bucket. All of a sudden a one possession game was double digits and we never got any closer.”
The final score was Mountain House 70, Escalon 53.
McCune had 21 points and Daisy Camacho had her “best game of the season,” the coach said, hitting double digits and putting in 11 points for the Lady Cougars.
“We didn’t finish the season like we hoped. If you look at the numbers we let five straight slip from us after a four-game winning streak,” Dalpogetti said. “But it was an incredible group to coach. They worked hard every day, they never quit, they were coachable and they really cared about one another. As a coach there wasn’t much more I could have asked from them.”