Hosting Riverbank in their home league opener on Tuesday, the game didn’t go quite as planned for the varsity Cougar basketball boys.
“We lost 56-37, but it was as good a 19-point loss as you can have, I guess,” said head coach Martin Louro of the Jan. 7 Trans-Valley League contest.
“It was one of those nights, we actually played really well, defensively we were flying all over, we held their best player (Rolaun Dunham) to 11 points, Ben Hood just did a great job on him all night.”
The offense, though, just wasn’t clicking for the host Cougars and they struggled in the first half, falling behind 17-8 in the first quarter and 26-13 at the half.
“I felt like we played a little tight,” Louro admitted, noting that the team kept battling despite the deficit. “We played with an extreme amount of effort, a whole lot of heart, we just couldn’t make shots.”
Escalon and Riverbank traded points, 12-12, in the third quarter, with Riverbank having an 18-12 scoring edge over the final eight minutes to seal the TVL victory.
“Our two styles are very similar, we both want to pressure the ball, we want to turn defense into offense,” Louro added. “We had less than 10 turnovers in the game, Thomas Diniz (point guard) did a great job again, we did a great job handling their pressure, did a good job rebounding … but we didn’t shoot the ball with confidence.”
Stephen Silveira paced Escalon with 13 points and Indiana Moorehead also stepped up, coming off the bench to hit three 3-point baskets to provide some spark and add nine points to the total. Louro said Moorehead didn’t play last year, so has some time to make up, but is working his way into the system and could be a factor for the Cougars as the season moves along.
At Orestimba on Friday, the outcome was decidedly better, as the Escalon squad notched its second league win, putting away the Warriors by a 64-36 final.
“The one thing you are nervous about is coming in flat but we didn’t,” Louro said of shaking off the tough loss at home. “We came in and played with the same fire and enthusiasm we had against Ripon and Riverbank, we really put it right to them from the start.”
A decisive 17-2 run in the first quarter got the Cougars started on the right foot and they never let up, outscoring Orestimba in three of four quarters on the night.
Escalon built up the lead to 38-13 at the half and were up 49-25 after three, cruising to the win.
Ben Hood had 20 points to lead the team, Julian Young added 10 points.
The boys were scheduled to play Hilmar on Tuesday, after The Times went to press and will host Hughson in a Friday night Homecoming game, tip off at 7:30 p.m.
“They are two winnable games,” Louro said, but added that the team has to play a full, focused four quarters each time out on the court.
Escalon improved to 2-1 in league with the split this week and looks to add to that win total with contests against the Yellowjackets and Huskies.
“Our league gets to send four teams to the playoffs this year,” Louro noted. “As long as we win the games we’re supposed to, we should be in the playoffs.
“We would like to get up to that number three or two spot, but in order to do that we have to beat Ripon and Riverbank.”